The Modern CPA Success Show: Episode 41
Today, we sit down with Summit CPA Group's COO and Co-Founder, Adam Hale and Octavia Conner, Founder and Virtual CFO at Say Yes To Profits, to get to know her and more about her business. Talking about what inspired her and what changes she made to build and scale her business.
Jamie Nau: Hello everybody, and welcome to today's podcast. Our guest today, as you can see from her background for those that are watching our the live video, has the most creative business name out of any of our guests. The name of her company is Say Yes to Profits, and her name is Octavia Connor. So I want to hear your back story, but I also want to hear the back story of your business name and how you came up with that. So welcome to the show Octavia.
Octavia Conner: Thank you for having me. So the name of the company used to be Smart Accounting Services, but I always wanted to do more than accounting, and I never could really at the time explain that. People wanted me to do their bookkeeping and taxes, that was it. They couldn’t understand why I wanted to consult with them. So I was like, I really need to change the name. When I was walking around my office I was saying to myself, what do I want business owners to do? What do I want them to have? What do I want the results to be? I was playing around with a couple of different names and it just kind of popped in my head and I was like, I want them to Say Yes to Profits and that was it. So I just went with it.
All: Laughing [in audible]
Adam Hale: So all of your clients are profitable, making lots of money. Is that kind of your focus then? Did you kind of take a shift? For us we developed, we call it profit-focused accounting. I know there's books out there that are like profit first. I think profit resonates well with everybody. You know, that's the whole point of being in business, is to, you know, be bigger than yourself and hopefully turn a profit and do those kind of things. But how do you help them? Because you said that at first they were talking about like bookkeeping and taxes. So how are you helping them define and get to those profits?
Octavia Conner: So great question. So one of the things I realize is that profit in the marketplace is like a buzz word. But in order to generate a profit the correct way, you need to have cash flow in your business. But at the time, I really didn't feel like cash flow was a buzzword. So one of the ways that we help our business owners is that we tell them the ultimate goal is for you to say yes to profits. But in order to say yes to profits, you have to take these baby steps. The baby steps is making sure that your service and products are priced for profit. The baby steps are making sure that you have an excess of cash flow. And then once we put all that in place and your service model is correct, then you can say yes to profits.
Adam Hale: So it's about getting a mental shift in place first.
Octavia Conner: Yes.
Jamie Nau: That makes a lot of sense. I'm definitely asking some follow up questions on that, because I know we talk a lot about process in the meetings you have. But I want to hit on something you said earlier. Originally, you said, you know, you try to have these consulting conversations with your clients and they would look at you sideways asking what are you doing? This isn't your job. How long did it take you to make that shift to the point where your clients were coming to you for that, and in having a lot of clients knocking on your door looking for that?
Octavia Conner: So I had to reposition myself. I went through a rebranding process, whereas before I've been doing marketing videos for several years and I was only at the time just discussing bookkeeping and how to keep the books in order and things like that. So what I did, I started to provide actual strategies on financial management and cash flow and profit. So then when someone would want to speak with me, that is what I would talk about, and I would actually tell them the bookkeeping that’s a byproduct. That's the small amount. That's the foundation. But our main goal is to help in this area. And after a while, I mean, of course, you have some people that still want just bookkeeping. After a while, I had to be bold enough to tell them that's not all that we do. And if that is what they're looking for we're not the company for that. But it took some time.
Adam Hale: Yeah, early on I think that rings true to most folks in the space. You take just about anybody that'll pay, right? And then you try to make people that you knew probably right out of the gate weren't the ideal client, you try to mold them into that. And it just never works out. So it's really great whenever you get an opportunity where you can do that. I mean, you know, and just kind of a shameless plug for the VCFO course, I know you've been a great voice in there. I mean, what are some of the things that you're doing now, or is there anything really that the course has helped you kind of craft or think about a little bit different in terms of your delivery?
Octavia Conner: Yes. I actually planned to do a video testimony for the course because I've had a couple of accountants reach out to me if they knew or I know about the course and wanted to get results. But the software that you all have introduced my firm to has enabled us to provide virtual CFO services seamless. So before we were using a lot of spreadsheets. With spreadsheets, you know, if one person does something wrong to the formula it effects the entire spreadsheet. I would have to spend days going back and fixing it. It was just a headache. The course has allowed us to find different software that we now conduct financial sessions with our clients, it's so easy. It took us like a day or two to prepare for meetings. Now I could probably do it like within the two hours before the meeting and have everything ready to go. So that's one of the greatest benefits of the course and another great benefit. I love the fact that we do the fireside chat and you all are so open and willing to just share information. You kind of, I feel, to just give the information away. And it has helped so much because I have a lot of questions. I feel like I do anyway.
All: Laughing [in audible]
Adam Hale: Yeah. I mean that's the thing. If more of us are out there speaking about profits and, you know, not necessarily disregarding bookkeeping because we all know garbage in, garbage out. So we don't mind picking up that work if we need to. But really emphasizing, you know, that clients should be looking at us as consultants, you know, because so many times whenever you get to your CPA, they only think, OK, help me save a few bucks in taxes or, you know, count what I did last month, you know, that's really all. And then they'll go and they'll pay somebody that's just kind of a fly by night and says, hey, this is what you should do and this is why. Then they just kind of fly away and we're like, wait a minute. Like we know all about you and have been working with you for like four or five years. We can help you do that. The reason why we are such an open book is because we do think the future of accounting is really just having so many more of us out there that clients just demand it. I think they're starting to finally, which is nice.
Octavia Conner: Yes, yes, I think so too. I now have clients that they want to know if we're providing, and now they know as we've kind of been around for a while, but before they really wanted to know at some point are we truly providing consulting services based on their finances or are they just going to receive a financial binder or financial report each month? They don't know what to do with that. It just looks like a piece of paper with numbers on it. So I think the more accountants adapt to the advisory part of the business, I think it will be great for the small business industry.
Jamie Nau: Yeah, definitely. I always tell this story, when I worked in big industry before coming to Summit, the companies I worked at had a 20 person finance department, a 15 person accounting department. Whenever they had a question, they knew where to go. They would hop in our office and just say let's run this out. What happens if we do this? What's it going to look like for our business? And at the time I was like, what? Why is the two million dollar mom and pop shop having to make these decisions for themselves? So I do think it's definitely the future of the industry, which is why I'm glad that we have offered the course to help small businesses out there. I think one of the biggest challenges in this space is what we call the silver bullet effect. You know, we always talk about how every meeting you feel like you have to bring great advice. That you have to come in and have the best meeting ever. So I'm curious, do you feel that way? That in every meeting you have with your clients, you have to bring this awesome tip that's going to change their life? Or if you don't feel that way, how have you prevented yourself from falling into that trap?
Octavia Conner: To be honest, before I enrolled in the course, I felt that way. But I remember I can't remember if it was a fireside chat or I was watching a video. But Adam, you mentioned on the video that you start with like a general question. You know, how have sales been? How has the business been? And then you let it flow from there. And that's what I started doing as well. So I'll have some information. But I don't feel like I just have to have five strategies for you to implement right now. It's just a conversation. And what I realized is that my clients, they love that because sometimes we're just talking about the challenges in their business and I'm giving them advice about that. And then we've come to an hour or so and they're like okay, we're done, and they feel like they've received guidance.
Jamie Nau: Yeah oftentimes it's just someone to talk to right? Another example of my former life was you kind of always saw the CEO and the CFO walking down the halls together. Like that's our goal. Again, even if we're talking not necessarily finance stuff, just to have someone to talk to, I think that really is key to have someone to talk to that cares about your business and knows about your business. And sometimes it's crazy where those conversations go. And to Adam's point that he said in the video it's really just about having those good questions, having those good questions that will lead to figuring out what's going on in their business. That definitely helps that approach.
Adam Hale: Sometimes I freak them out and, you know, I'll go in there and be like, what the heck happened last month? And they will sat, what do you mean? And then, you know, like, you're awesome. And they're like, oh yeah. Well, you know, I mean, you know, just kind of go and then yeah, that'll start a fifteen, twenty minute conversation on its own. You learn about other stuff. But I think that's the important other lesson to is like just not to stay in the numbers too long. People will tune you out. So you really got to focus high level just on the conversation and about the business and then, of course, through a financial lens. That's what we do. So we have the numbers to be able to speak to and back up what we're saying. If you don't do that, then that's kind of tough. I mean obviously, you've nailed the marketing. Love the background. I don't see the trademark on there. So I guess we can start using that too.
All: Laughing [in audible]
Octavia Conner: This is an old banner, so I have a trademark on it now. It came through, I think in January. I'm so excited.
Adam Hale: Well, we can officially show the video, nobody can have it. But have you found the need or the want to find a niche and really kind of focus in, or are you still pretty much the same kind of industry agnostic and kind of a broad stroke?
Octavia Conner: Well, I've always struggled with picking a niche because I feel like I can help everyone. But as of last year, I've been focusing heavily on consulting firms and not really any specific one. That has worked really well for us so far. So I think I'll stay on that path because it makes me feel comfortable enough to say that there are enough business owners in their industry and, I don't know, not just boil it down to just one particular industry. I don't know if that makes sense, but I always struggle with picking a niche.
Adam Hale: Yeah I mean, I think that's pretty normal, I mean, for us, and sometimes it happens accidentally, right? You're going to find somebody that you just really enjoy working with. You're interested about the industry and you just want to learn more about it. And you just naturally kind of understand it. And maybe for you it’s the consulting firms. The VCFO services to small businesses, it does apply to every industry. It's just a matter of, you know, can you be the master of every industry? And that's been a learning lump for us and especially me. I think I can fix everybody. And you're right. I think I can help everybody. And then you get in and you're like, I'm just apparently not that person for that industry, you know what I mean? Because either the client was challenging or the circumstance. So I think I think that's definitely been tough. So just hang in there and you'll find one or two or three. And we take everybody. We really do. Because for us, I'm not going to say we're industry agnostic because we obviously niche down pretty heavy, but it's almost like the client profile is just as important, somebody that's tech savvy and open minded.
Octavia Conner: I did do that, I did the client profile I actually have it here on my wall and I ask them questions that will determine if they fit the client profile and then if they do and the discovery session is great and our energy is in sync, then I'm open to at least trying it if they're open to trying.
Jamie Nau: Yeah, you should see some of the clients that Adam bring my way. He’s like, I got this great client. Adam definitely has a little bit that memory where he can fix everybody.
Adam Hale: It's fun. Sometimes those challenges are cool and you learn a lot of cool stuff from them. But yes, the rest of the team might want to kill you. But, you know, I think you made a good point and something that I do sometimes that I think that clients really love to hear is sometimes I flip the script and I make it about me for a minute. I say, well, what I look for is this and this and this. And if you're not that person, you really don't want to work with me, you know what I mean? And then I'll even take it a step further and I'll put it back on them. In terms of the time commitment, I'll be like, you have to meet with me once a week doing this and this. And if you don't do that, total waste of your money, like, don't even bother. And they're like, whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute. I didn't say it wouldn't meet with you. That sounds like no big deal. So just even that psychology on the sales pitch seems to almost like draw them closer to you. You know, they're just like, no, no, no, I want this.
Octavia Conner: I do that as well. I tell them, I say you have to meet with us at least once a month. I remember having one client and she was like, I just don't have the time. I did the exact same thing. I said, well, we're probably not the firm for you. And she said, well, no, Octavia, I really, really want to work with you. That client has not missed one meeting at all.
Jamie Nau: That's great. Yeah, that's important for sure to have that meeting time and have that space where you can chat with them. I think that is really important. Can you tell us a little bit about those meetings? I'd love to hear what you're talking about. Is it just financial statements or is it, you know, like Adam said, the question or are you talking forecasts? I'm just kind of curious about your meeting cadence and what your goals are with those meetings.
Octavia Conner: So I actually kind of adapted some of the cadence from the course. I always try to put my little spin on it. But I usually start by asking them, you know, how has business been? How has sales been? You know, what are some things that you've done really well and what are some things that you did not do really well so that we can fix those? I'll start like that and I'll just let them talk and then we'll go into depending on what we're meeting about. We may start discussing the past, but I always tell my clients we are not going to stay stuck on the past. It has happened. Let's learn from it and move on. So we'll talk about that. I will sometimes, for some of my clients that are a long winded I will start a time, and when it dings we have to move on. Then we always look towards the future. And then one of the things that I do with all of my clients when they first started we mapped out a plan for the next 12 months. So I always like to track where are you versus where you should be and how do we bridge the gap between those two places. By the time we do that, the meeting is over.
Adam Hale: So what's a tip you could give somebody that's listening that is thinking about, you know, kind of doing what we do. What is one of those learning lumps or one of those little secrets you could give away?
Octavia Conner: Well, I would say first have confidence. I think it takes a lot of confidence to be a financial adviser, you know telling someone what to do with their money. I think that takes a lot of confidence. Then I guess after that, I would say have your systems in place because it's not just bookkeeping. You are financially advising someone. And then if you are doing the bookkeeping as well, that has to be in order for you to provide. So you want to have your back office in order.
Jamie Nau: Great tips. I think that definitely makes sense. I love you talking about having the processes in place because I think that is important. I love the way you approach each of the meetings and walking away with the plan versus the forecast. I think that's something that it took us a while to get there. We talked a lot about budget. We talked a lot about forecast. But to revisit that plan and doing that up front, can you go a little bit more into your onboarding with clients? So when you take on a brand new client, what is the steps it takes to get them into your systems and to get them into your software and tools? And how do you approach that?
Octavia Conner: Well, the first thing they have to complete is the client enrollment form so that we can get information from them. Then once they complete the form, they are assigned a bookkeeper and the bookkeepers sole purpose is to make sure that their accounting system is up to date. Once we have that approval, if we're doing forecasting for them, we will then import that into the forecasting system that we use. I will then go, because right now I'm the virtual CFO for everyone. So I would then look at the history and I would map out ideally where I think the client is going to go within the next 12 months. Then we schedule the planning meeting and the meeting is usually about three hours, give or take, where we sit down and I asked them several questions. One thing I tell my clients is that I am going to get in all of your business. So just be prepared. I'm going to ask you some questions that you're probably not going to want to answer. But this is a no judgment call. Then I proceed to get out of the business and I just ask them financial questions, personal and business related, because they are congruent in how we map out this plan for the next 12 months, and that's pretty much it.
Jamie Nau: A three hour meeting. Wow, that's impressive. You definitely are confident in what we are doing here.
Octavia Conner: We'll take a break. Since they are virtual I will order food to be delivered to wherever they are.
Adam Hale: That's pretty cool.
Jamie Nau: So we're getting a little close on time here. I'm going to throw our email address out there. We love having great guests like Octavia on here. Our email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Final thoughts for listeners? Things they need to know in order to have the success that you're having?
Octavia Conner: I would say first thing, take the course. So enroll is number one. Number two, just do it. Just start and learn from your mistakes.
Jamie Nau: Adam appreciates plug for the course. Adam, any final thoughts from you?
Adam Hale: Just to memorialize it, just to push it off on something we would do for a client. Octavia, what does Say Yes to Profits look like 5 years from now? Have you thought that far ahead for yourself?
Octavia Conner: Yes. I am looking on my board in front of me. Say Yes to Profits has about 10 to 15 team members, and we are an internationally known company. I think that's about as far as I got.
Adam Hale: That's awesome. Now, that's good. I mean, so many times we forget to do that kind of stuff for ourselves. So it's cool to hear that you do have it on the board. And, you know, just like we tell the clients, write it down, it happens. So you got to remember to do it for ourselves.
Jamie Nau: I'm going to want to have you back on this podcast. I think when I'm going to want to have you back on is when you hire that next CFO. So I think that's a very challenging time. Finding the next Octavia and how that's going to work. So I promise you, we'll have you back on and make sure you reach out to me when that happens, because I want to hear about that experience
Octavia Conner: I sure will, because that makes me nervous, to let it go. I feel like it is my baby. I just love meeting with clients and advising them. So to let it go and to have there be an Octavia number two is going to be a challenge. I'm going to do it when the time comes, but it will be hard.
Adam Hale: Let us know. We'd love to hear about how it goes.
Jamie Nau: Awesome. Thanks for joining the show. You did a great job. I think our listeners are going to love this one. So thank you so much for joining us.
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