“We teach bookkeepers to get their own business in order first,” says Amy, “then teach what they learn to their clients. This lays a foundation of integrity in the work they do, which builds their confidence.”
In 2014, Amy Hooke decided to start her own firm, Off The Hook Bookkeeping, in Melbourne, Australia. She had more than 20 years of bookkeeping experience, and she was ready to strike out on her own.
The structure of The Savvy Bookkeeper
Everyone who starts a brand-new business takes on a lot of work—managing every aspect, and taking responsibility for every financial and business-related decision.
In the middle of building her business, Amy had a realization—the challenges she faced in setting up and growing her company were actually issues that all bookkeepers need help with.
So, Amy founded a different business—The Savvy Bookkeeper, offering strategic planning and consulting to bookkeepers. Her team has grown to eight full-time staff (including Amy). So far, Savvy has helped more than 570 bookkeepers “bring business and life vision into alignment.”
The Savvy team also uses their expertise to help clients develop websites and marketing strategies, as well as figure out how to right-size their team. “We help our clients relieve the overwhelm of working outside their skill set,” says Amy.
Amy believes that her clients need to understand more about their business than just day-to-day operations. Clients need to know their purpose and vision, both for when they're at the office, and for the life they want to make possible through their work.
That's why Amy also advises clients on other areas of the business that can be more personal, including work-life balance and “emotional intelligence” decisions, such as when to say no to a prospect or client. She uses every session and every update or workflow in LivePlan to help her clients find satisfaction in their work and overall lives.
How Savvy uses LivePlan with clients
Rapid changes in the bookkeeping industry mean more pressure on bookkeepers. Amy uses her Strategic Advising services to help bookkeepers “do business in the right order,” as Amy puts it. This way, bookkeepers “can lay a solid foundation in their own business first, then shift focus toward serving their client, with a deeper sense of integrity in knowing they are practicing what they preach.”
“We teach bookkeepers to get their own business in order first, then teach what they learn to their clients.”
Today, Amy devotes herself to helping bookkeepers with the strategic business planning they need to embrace in their own businesses to compete, stand out, and profit—even as their industry continues to evolve.
“We teach bookkeepers to get their own business in order first, then teach what they learn to their clients,” says Amy. “This lays a foundation of integrity in the work they do, which builds their confidence.”
Build a business plan and collaborate with mentors
Amy discovered LivePlan when the Savvy team was figuring out the right format for their mentoring students to follow. She and her team wanted to use business plans with their clients, but they struggled to find a solution that could be tailored, simple, secure, collaborative, and interactive.
“Amongst all of the generic, over-complicated templates, we discovered a platform that offered a business plan online,” she says. Not only could clients create and evolve their business plans in LivePlan, but LivePlan's “Invite Users” feature also made it “a place where our clients could collaborate with their mentor.”
“LivePlan gives us a framework to have conversations with bookkeepers,” says Amy. “Bookkeepers come in with little confidence about managing their own business, let alone offering advisory to their clients. It's great to see them quickly move from a place of confusion to clarity about advisory, learning how they can help their clients make the same discoveries.”
10-minute new client setup and ongoing planning sessions
Setting up a new client in LivePlan takes Amy about 10 minutes. Instead of struggling with a highly-technical or difficult onboarding process, Amy can pivot quickly from nuts-and-bolts setup to going deep into her client's business planning.
“LivePlan gives us a framework to have conversations with bookkeepers.”
From there, clients have three initial sessions with Amy, including “prework and homework” that helps the client start defining their vision. Amy helps bookkeepers set their course on business planning, pricing, branding and marketing, sales and onboarding, what services to provide, and general team-building for growing firms.
It's an ongoing, in-depth process. So, it could also be a time-intensive one. With a growing team and an increasing number of clients, it's essential for Amy to have the right tools to keep onboarding productive yet efficient.
That's why Amy uses LivePlan as the nerve center behind her Strategic Advising services for bookkeepers. LivePlan helps Amy and her team keep The Savvy Bookkeeper's service level high.
Pitch, plan, milestones, and forecast
Amy spends a few hours per week using LivePlan for her clients. She mainly focuses on the Pitch, presentation, and business plan parts of the tool. Its approachable interface has helped Amy show her clients that they can be confident in steering their business, not only in the day-to-day, but also on a higher strategic level.
“We use LivePlan, starting with the Pitch, to get a high-level overview,” says Amy. “Then we identify 3- to 5-year goals and drill down into the details, recording those in the plan section, and breaking those down into smaller steps in the milestone section.”
“In the forecast section, we help the bookkeeper lay a foundation for pricing their packages, with the big picture in mind,” explains Amy. “Discovering we could use LivePlan to help bookkeepers price their packages was huge because bookkeepers really struggle moving from hourly billing to fixed monthly fees.”
“Discovering we could use LivePlan to help bookkeepers price their packages was huge.”
The fixed fee model is important because it allows the potential for a higher profit margin on the work being delivered.
Here's how: Once processes are implemented, a firm can work to make them more and more efficient, which leads to less time spent—but the same price for the client.
The billable hour can never be made more efficient, and it's actually counterintuitive to good client relationships because it motivates both the firm and the client to spend less time together. Most important, the fixed fee model gives the client control and peace of mind, because they know exactly what they're being billed. And the firm knows exactly what they're getting paid, helping them plan and budget more effectively.
The LivePlan Method for a scalable process and profitability
When looking into LivePlan for advisory, Amy soon realized it was far more than just a service.
“I loved the webinar you did showing how the LivePlan Method works,” says Amy. “One thing that stuck with me was knowing how much to charge based on how long each step takes and having the steps broken down.”
As a LivePlan user, Amy now can use the LivePlan Method to show clients how they can focus on the value of the service, not just its price.
Other resources Savvy uses to deliver advisory services
Amy and her team connect LivePlan to both Quickbooks Online and Xero, for dashboard reporting and financial analysis, comparing the financial plan to actual accounting results.
“[LivePlan] takes away the need to ‘sell’ the service, because you can just show the client the value.”
They also use LivePlan's invite user feature to work collaboratively with their clients directly in LivePlan.
How Savvy prices and sells their advisory services
Instead of hourly fees, Savvy prices their Strategic Advising services in a fixed fee model. They have one flat fee for set up and implementation, another fee for the first three sessions (as they are more time-intensive), and the ongoing monthly flat fee.
“[LivePlan] takes away the need to ‘sell’ the service, because you can just show the client the value,” says Amy.
Amy also helps her clients meet the challenge of setting effective pricing packages for their own services, and augmenting standard bookkeeping with services such as Strategic Advising.
How Palo Alto Software and LivePlan support The Savvy Bookkeeper
Throughout her own business planning process, Amy has found LivePlan useful—not just with business planning, but also because of the support and documentation that has helped make LivePlan integral in her business.
Amy found that LivePlan even comes in handy when designing websites for her clients. “We discovered that they didn't know who their target market or competitors were,” she explains. “So we started mentoring to help them figure it out. We started using LivePlan to help them map out their website plan. The LivePlan Pitch is actually given to our web developer as a guide for creating the bookkeepers website.”
“The LivePlan pitch is actually given to our web developer as a guide for creating the bookkeepers website.”
In her own use of LivePlan, Amy also appreciates that help is always near.
“The available downloads and resources are great. They provide lots of information on each of the LivePlan Method steps,” says Amy. Even though she is on the other side of the world, she could always reach a live person for help. “I also found Josh [Channel Sales Director] very friendly and supportive in the early days during our initial chat.”
As the Savvy team continues helping their clients grow, Amy's use of LivePlan has even inspired her to restart her own bookkeeping business, Off the Hook Bookkeeping.
“We've grown quite quickly,” says Amy. “And we're about to start using LivePlan with our business owner clients.”