Pete talks with Heather Smith, author of Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days, and a certified Xero Accounting Software Consultant. They talk about the book, the main mistakes that people make when starting a small business, and how to avoid them.
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Conversation with Heather Smith
Dom Goucher: Hello everyone, and welcome to this edition of PreneurCast with me, Dom Goucher. And welcome back to him, Pete Williams.
Pete Williams: How are you, buddy?
Dom: Good, good, good. Great to have you back with us.
Pete: Good to be back. It’s been a little bit chaotic with the new baby and stuff like that. A lot of fun, but a little chaotic. But all good.
Dom: You have however, been holding up your end of the deal. Even though you weren’t on the show because you have been out and about doing your usual opportunity seeking, and your content creation activities, you managed to get an interview with another author, right?
Pete: Yeah. Another Wiley author who published one original book, which is kind of cool as well. It was a bit of a slight alumni feel to it as well, which is always good.
Dom: Cool. I’m really interested in this book because it sounds like it’s right up my street. You spoke very recently with Heather Smith who’s the author of Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days. Now I love that title because that, to me, sounds just like one of those thing that I say, which is JFDI [just (expletive) do it]. This idea of cover the whole thing in seven days sounds like it’s right up my street.
Pete: I do like the number seven- 7 Levers, of course.
Dom: There’s that too. There’s something to that.
Pete: I said this to Heather [Smith] in the interview that everyone’s about to hear in a moment, that I actually found the book quite a bit different to what I expected. Heather’s a bookkeeper and accountant by trade. I’m actually doing a lot of conversations now.
Where we’re in the process with our Simply Headsets and e-com businesses to move everything away from our current platform and accounting systems to Magento Enterprise, which is a $15,000 a year e-commerce platform. That’s just for the license, let alone the development and stuff like that. But when you’re doing three or four million dollars in revenue, it’s fine.
And also moving that all across to Xero. Xero is a new online, cloud-based accounting software similar to Mint and MYOB and that sort of stuff. She’s a Xero accountant and specialist. So we’ve been working a little bit together via e-mail and some questions, getting advice from her too, which is really cool. Off the back of this interviewing, actually engaging with her in some business aspects too.
Dom: Cool. One thing that I got from the blurb of the book- another thing that really resonates, certainly with me, which is a little quote that Heather gives. I’m presuming this is something that came out in the conversation, but she says that, “Million-dollar, multinational microbusinesses can operate out of cosy home offices. Digital nomads outsource business operations while traveling the world.” Does that sound like anybody we know?
Pete: That’s the whole idea. The thing I really loved about her book, which definitely ties into that quote; and this is what I said to her and she laughed and had context as we speak; but it’s a very bland business development book because it’s written by an accountant.
And what I mean by that is she goes through the stuff you have to be across and be aware of that most business start-up books forget to include because it’s not sexy, and it’s not hypey. She talks about things like the finances and getting advice, and how to actually establish a business in a legal sense but also in a concept sense. One of the first things she covers is this whole topic of, are you ready to start a business?
And this is something that I think a lot of people really need to consider. We go quite a bit into that in the conversation with Heather, about are you ready to start a business. What is the purpose of your business and being clear on that. Because if you’re not clear on why and are you ready, then your business is not going to be successful.
Unfortunately, we say that quite a bit. I know you and I have talked about that a bit in various conversations, Dom, that a lot of people who “start a business” aren’t really ready to actually start a business. They would have been better off just getting a different job.
Dom: Absolutely. That’s almost the ultimate- just because you can, doesn’t mean you should, isn’t it?
Pete: Yeah, exactly. Absolutely. So it’s a really cool conversation that we have. The good thing about the book is that it’s basically laid out over seven days. The whole idea is that every day, you get a better understanding of a certain section of things you need to develop, control, understand, educate yourself on, be aware of, around starting a small business.
Dom: Cool. Well, that said, let’s get right into your conversation with Heather Smith and find out more about Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days.
[Pete's conversation with Heather starts]
Pete: Heather, thanks for joining us.
Heather Smith: Thank you so much, Pete, for having me on your show. I’m so grateful for being invited onto the show. And hello to all the listeners out there listening in.
Pete: Awesome. Well, good to have you. Now the book, Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days, very intriguing title, which I do like. We’ll obviously talk quite a bit about it throughout the show. But we might as well start to give people some context about it all. So how’d the book come to be? What is it meant to be? Who is it meant to help? What’s the story there?
Heather: Well, if we start with the intriguing title, as I was writing it, you’re always monitoring what you’re writing, and I actually spotted that some man in the UK wrote a book with the exact same title. Can you believe it? As I was writing this, we were basically published at the same time. But his went down a completely different path to mine. My book comes from, I’m an accountant and I go in and help businesses to start up.
I work with lots of start-ups. I work with innovation centers and mentoring through the universities. And many times the start-up, in that phase, can’t afford everything. They’re so busy doing what they do. And I would go into the business and not everything was done that needed- probably legally, probably to cover all aspects to be done.
Of course, no one I dealt with was like that, but maybe other people I’ve worked with. What I did was, I said, okay, I’ll pull all of my experience, all of my knowledge, all of the reality that I see out there, into a book so it fills in all of those questions, and answers all of those questions for someone running a business.
And I know that in the initial stages of running a business, for myself, I was just reading everything, getting anything I could get my hands on that made sense. I was reading through it. So I think it’s a really realistic guide. It’s real stories of real businesses and what they’re doing, and what actually works out there.
So I think you’re wise to see, okay, what is doing well? And this is very much what’s doing well, what works, what jigsaw pieces do we need to fill in. You can kind of go through the book with a pen and go, okay I’ve got that ticked, go on to the next bit.
Pete: I think this is really good. We kind of spoke about this together earlier, that I actually enjoyed that the book was written by an accountant because it was bland. And I mean that in the most lovingly way. Let me try and justify that comment. A lot of start-up books, so to speak, they focus so much on the blue sky and the marketing, and finding the customer, and all that sort of stuff.
It is obviously part of the journey, but that is really the second phase of a business. To actually start a business, which is what a lot of these people are talking about and teaching, you have to be concerned with the finances and the people, and the launching of the business, and all that “mundane stuff”.
But I really like that that’s what this book’s all about. It’s giving people that easy to read- it’s not bland in terms of the way it’s read, but the topics are a little bit more that way. And I actually applaud that. If that makes sense. So don’t take that as an insult, I actually mean that as an absolute compliment.
Heather: Thank you. No, I completely get where you’re coming from. I dealt with this one person who started a business and launched a marketing campaign, and hit 2,000 letterboxes saying, “I can do all this work for you, all this gardening work for you.” Well, no one ever heard from him for four months because he just got so much work. He went under in that he couldn’t manage anything.
He couldn’t keep on top of anything because he over-marketed himself and then he didn’t have all the bases behind him. And the same goes again- you always hear of these poor businesses that get on like a TV program, some of the TV programs to promote business, which is fantastic. But you need to have the capacity to serve before you go down that route of marketing them.
It’s important to know that there is a market out there, but make sure you have the capacity to serve before you market them. Make sure you have all those insurances, etcetera, in place before you start selling something that you’re going to lose livelihood over if something goes wrong.
Pete: Yeah, and I don’t think it’s meant to scare people, “Here’s all the stuff you have to do.” But you have to be aware of it, because so many people just aren’t. You don’t want to not start your business because of some of these things. You still want to keep moving forward, but you’ve just got to be aware of what you need to cover off at some stage, and in certain stages of your business.
So many people don’t really think about that. One of the things I really found surprising and again, applaud and really enjoyed, is the whole idea is you tackle one topic a day for seven days. And we’ll talk about that a bit more, but the first thing you talk about is, are you ready to start a business?
It’s very refreshing to see that in a book. Because you may find some people actually read that first chapter and go, “You know what, I’m not ready,” put the book down and walk away. That in itself is a very good thing to do for a lot of people. There are people that I consult with and see at events that I speak at; I get on a conversation with them, “Why are you starting this business?
What’s the purpose of the business? How does this fit in with your lifestyle goals?” They just haven’t really thought through the implications of owning a business. They just see this beautiful, shiny Mark Zuckerberg story and go, “Yeah, cool. I’m going to go and start Facebook. But in reality, they aren’t going to go and code for 15 hours a day like Mark did for the first two years of Facebook. It’s refreshing to see that.
Heather: Absolutely, yes. Thank you. In that section, I very much say, doing what you’re doing currently in your own position, what can you build upon to start learning a job? I know that when I wanted to go into business, I was actually working for a training institute. So what I did was I grabbed ever training manual from that institute and took them home.
Every evening, I spent three hours working through it- be it web design, be it advanced Excel, which I use frequently doing what I do in consulting, be it managing people. So if you’re in an organization and they’re offering training and you think that that can benefit you when you start your job, jump on it. Just constantly build and see where you go.
I know that you started very young in your own business, Pete. But for myself, I spent two years going, “I want to start a business, I want to start a business,” but not knowing what to do about it. Just really thinking about it and reading about it. So yeah, very much for that person who wants to work through it themselves.
Pete: I think for a lot of people, they aren’t ready. They’re better off just getting a different career rather than starting a business. The results they want from a business, they’ll actually more likely achieve by getting a different career. And it sounds very strange for a business blog and a business podcast.
It’s like saying, realistically, this might not be for you. It might not be your journey. If you want to be able to have your weekends and spend time with your family, and get holiday pay, but just have a better salary and a bit more enjoyment during your day, you’re probably going to get that by getting a different job, not by going and trying to start up a business.
Heather: Yes, definitely. Say goodbye to holiday pay!
Pete: Particularly if it’s your first go at the rodeo, you’re going to struggle. It’s just inevitable. If you read books like this and listen to podcasts, it’s going to be easier for you and more chance of success. But it isn’t all roses and butterflies.
Heather: No, it definitely isn’t. I don’t think that people sometimes are a aware of how long every small-business owner is actually working. Sometimes they just see the successes. They just see them when they’re speaking on stage, and they go, “Wow, that’s exciting and that’s glamorous.” But we both know a lot of hours went to get to that position.
Pete: Yeah, absolutely. I was on the phone with my business partner until 9PM last night. I left the office at 5:30, called him on my cell phone to start a conversation, didn’t get off until 9 o’clock at night.
And this business has been running for eight years. This is like a mid-week conversation that happened for three and half hours. That’s what needs to happen in business sometimes.
Heather: Yes, absolutely.
Pete: Let’s actually go towards more roses and butterflies, and then stay away from the manure that we’ve been talking about. The whole idea of the book is that you go through a section or a chapter a day for seven days, and it gives you that solid grounding framework and context about the seven or so different key areas of a business that you need to be across and understand, before you go and start it up. Is that a fair assessment?
Heather: Yes. Some of them, obviously, will perhaps take longer. Just meeting with a lawyer is going to take longer than a seven-day period. But it’s really sort of sectionalizing it. It falls into a series. There’s an ‘In Seven Days’ series.
It slots nicely into an ‘In Seven Days’ series of books out there. But while you’re maybe dealing with your accountant and dealing with a lawyer, you may also start thinking about your marketing as well. So I think it’s really compartmentalizing what you need to do.
I’ve worked out, it takes about two and half hours to really, in detail, go through what you need to do each particular day. But you could sit there and just go through getting all of those conversations going and started, and getting through them.
Pete: Yeah, that’s my take. If you are going to start this business, use this almost as like a seven-day positive constraint. What I mean by that is go, “After-hours for the next seven days, I’m going to spend two and half hours on each one of these things.
I’m not going to necessarily have that conversation with a lawyer in this seven-day period, but I’m going to read and learn about the professional advice chapter and get my understanding and context right. So then next week, I’ll go off and actually implement these things and make those phone calls, and set those appointments.
And if you can’t get through those seven days of two, two and a half hours a night of doing the “mundane” stuff, and I’m not saying it in a bad way, that almost establishes itself that you’re not ready for a business.
Heather: Absolutely. Almost definitely.
Pete: If you can’t stick to that.
Heather: You and I, and probably many of your listeners know that technically awesome, sensational people who are wonderful at designing logos or building things, and they want to go into business on their own, but you can kind of see you don’t have that self-discipline to actually do it. You are technically great at what you do, but all the other aspects, you’re going to be able to monitor them. And being an employee may be a lot easier.
Pete: Yeah, there’s a huge difference between mechanics and marketing. And I put it down like, running a business is obviously more than just marketing, but to me that is definitely the cornerstone of a business. You go through an apprenticeship and you learn the tools, as you said.
You learn to become a great graphic designer, or a great mechanic, or a great barista or whatever it might be. You know the mechanics of the job. That is completely different to what it takes to run a successful business. As a business owner, the mechanics and the tools are probably only about 15% of what you need to spend your time on.
And this is the big gap that people just don’t really get or see. They kind of get the tools, and then they see the people on stage living the lifestyle, playing golf and being interviewed on TV. They miss that six, seven-year journey in between.
Heather: Yeah, absolutely. The 4-Hour Workweek dream out there.
Pete: Yeah. I know Tim and what he preaches and stuff is absolutely possible, but there’s a lot in between that. He touches on in the book that when he started BrainQUICKEN, he was working ridiculous hours; the plaque on his wall saying business hours finish at 5PM.
But it was only after a couple of years of doing that knuckle-grinding work when he got the realization he was able to make those changes. Because there was at least some momentum and system in place that he could leverage into a four-hour workweek.
Heather: Absolutely. I go through his books with a pencil. I go through every page and make sure I’m doing everything he’s saying. He’s got a lot of information there in his books definitely, to go through.
Pete: It’s probably a bad segue, but Tim’s great on social media and Web 2.0. This is a really cool story about how you actually got the book deal, which I thought, well, I’d love to talk about. A poor bridge, but we’ll use it anyway.
Heather: I’m prolific on Twitter and LinkedIn, and Facebook. As I think about things or I as I come across things, I will share them via social media and via blogging. What happened was I actually got an e-mail from Wiley Business, who I believe you’ve written for in the past.
They said, “Would you like to come and write a book for us?” I think I was actually in Sydney at the time, and many, many people probably called the police as they heard me scream. I couldn’t believe that I got an e-mail asking me. Who does that? Who gets an e-mail asking them to actually write a book for them?
They actually spotted me via social media channels and said “Can you pull a book together?” So I went ahead and pulled the book together. Are you interested in me going through the writing process?
Pete: Yeah, absolutely. I’d love to talk about that as well, for sure.
Heather: The writing process for me, I very much integrate with social media. I’ve done several writing courses with Valerie Khoo’s writing center, which I know that you’ve spoken with Valerie before.
Pete: Author of Power Stories.
Heather: Yes. Valerie, author of Power Stories. It’s now called the Australian Writers’ Centre. It was the Sydney Writers’ Centre when she did the interview with you. And that just solidified and gave me so much confidence in what I was doing. How I do it is I sit at my desk and I work through what I’m going to write about.
But every sentence that I construct, I actually throw out onto Twitter or out into LinkedIn. That way, I’m enriching what I’m writing because people actually come back and comment on it. They disagree with it, which is fantastic because it gets me to go off in a tangent.
Or they come back and they add further character or color to what I’m writing about. And I’ll do that. I’ll typically go for like a 350 to 500-word segment at a time and identify that, and write that through Twitter and LinkedIn, pull that together. And essentially you have that little blog post there which is 350 to 500 words.
And I’ll typically then post it up on Flying Solo, or News.com, or My Business, or some of those sites out there. At the end of the day, you have all of these little 500-word articles, which I got a sort of patchwork quilt and quilted them all together into a book. So it was actually a very easy writing process.
What you’re doing is actually promoting what your knowledge is as you’re writing it, and generating this interest in what you’re doing. And hopefully, credibility in what you’re doing. I would literally come home from a client and go, wow, I learned this at this client today. And throw it out there and see what I could get back from the world out there.
Pete: And that was obviously a very good process because you’re getting a lot of interaction and people getting that involvement in the book that they’re going to go and invest in that at the same time as well, which is very cool.
Heather: Absolutely. Yeah, it was a book written on social media- the bland book written on social media. But yes.
Pete: I’ve tainted it now, haven’t I, with that word?
Heather: No, that’s fine. Look, I understand it’s operational. And I understand that that’s what it is, but that’s what I do.
Pete: It’s important that people actually get that. Because I think this is the thing. People so often overlook that and just think, “Oh, that’ll take care of itself. If I make enough revenue and make enough sales, that stuff will just somehow magically take care of itself.” And it just doesn’t. But you have to be across it.
You have to be aware of what’s required from— bits and pieces. And things like you’re saying. One of the things that I talk about quite a bit is things like, who cares about your logo on stationery? That sort of stuff is just ridiculous. That does not sell a client, having pretty stationary. It’s irrelevant in that scenario.
Heather: You’re about to get lots of e-mails from graphic designers! But yes.
Pete: I’ve said it before. To me, branding should be a byproduct. If you look at some of the companies we have: Simply Headsets, Discount Conference Phones. Simply Headsets is a multimillion-dollar business we have that does e-commerce products. The logo is terrible. And we’ll admit the logo is terrible, but that doesn’t stop people buying from us.
And if we had a better logo, it wouldn’t increase conversion rates. So it’s just, why do stuff that’s not actually going to affect profit? Because at the end of the day, business is about profit, and if you can’t tie a direct thing between what you’re about to do and how it’s going to increase profit, don’t do it. It’s completely pointless.
Heather: Absolutely. Going back to what you were talking about before in that, now that you’re running the business, everything that you do in the business, even if you outsource it- even if you outsource it to an incredible accountant, or an incredible lawyer, or an incredible graphics designer, or someone overseas, which all of that works for you.
At no stage can you abdicate responsibility for what you’re doing. The accountant gets you to sign off on all of those documents. He doesn’t sign that your tax reports are correct, you sign them off. And if they’re not correct, you’re in trouble not him, as with everything else.
So that’s something. Because I know that some people just say I don’t care about my accounts, just do it and I will pay you as much money as possible. It doesn’t work like that.
Pete: I couldn’t agree more. And people can read into that what they will, but I couldn’t agree more.
Heather: Yes. You can’t abdicate the responsibility and you have to understand what’s going on in your own accounts, and your own legal side, and your own insurance. And I know that you’ve probably got an exciting insurance section, but I count it out. Look, I’m an accountant and I’m risk-adverse.
But I currently have 20 separate insurances at the moment. Which sounds unbelievably insane, but it’s just you go through all the individual things you need for a business. It’s incredible.
Pete: So let me talk about the accounting side of stuff. Something that you’ve obviously got experience when you’re consulting is things like Xero and similar software. I’d love to touch on that. It’s a bit separate to the book, but the whole cloud-based accountant stuff.
I think for a lot of people listening, the way stuff’s going these days is really cool. We’re starting to migrate some of our smaller business units to Xero, which I’m a big fan of. Do you want to talk about Xero and your experience and the benefits? Because I think people will get some real benefit out of that.
Heather: Absolutely. I’m not sure if you’re aware of my next book coming out.
Pete: No. It’s on Xero, isn’t it?
Heather: My next book coming out is Xero for Dummies. So the black and yellow titles.
Pete: Nice, Dummy series. Awesome.
Heather: Yes. I’ve actually got four Xero books coming out. I’m publishing five books this year. How insane is that? And four of them are on Xero. So yes, I’m all across Xero. Let me talk about that. For people who are unaware of Xero, it’s completely cloud-based system. You don’t need to have anything on your desktop.
You can go anywhere, log into a browser, completely secure logins just as you would bank. If you’re prepared to log into a bank, you should be prepared to log into Xero. You can access it on your iPhone and iPad. The major difference, initially what you’ll find is what you do is you hook up your bank feed to Xero.
Pete: This is awesome.
Heather: Yeah. You hook up your bank feed, your credit card feed, your PayPal feed, and eventually all different online gateway feeds will be able to hook up. And so, your transactions flow through into Xero. You no longer have to do any of that data entry. I run two separate businesses.
I have a desktop one that I do manually enter the data into. Xero saves me now about 90% of the time in just the data entry. You still need to code it. However, what you do is it learns how you regularly code something. It sees that when you go to this parking place, that’s parking and you coded it like that before, so it suggests it as parking.
I kind of liken it to a Space Invaders game. You wake up in the morning and you have two lines on the two columns. On one side, you have all the bank feeds that came in last night. On the other side, it has all the suggestions. And you just go through it. It has a little okay button in the middle and you go, “Okay, okay, okay.”
And of course, if there’s something a bit more complicated, you have to dive in and access that and put some further information into that. You have that side of it, but then what’s great about it is your tax accountant, or your business advisor, or your bookkeeper can log in, if you’ve given them permission, from wherever they are.
They can log into the system and they can do your books for you. Your tax accountant can go in and do your taxes directly into Xero. So you never have any of this sending your data file across e-mail for him to do it and then sending it back. He does it directly into Xero, makes all the adjustments directly into Xero.
Literally, it is up to date within about 48 hours all the time. It’s kind of waiting on bank feeds, etcetera, to come in, but it’s just up to date all the time. So the information is really reliable. Taking that one step further, what it has is something that is a published API, which is a published application programming interface, which is the fancy term for it.
That is a key that allows you to unlock the Xero- sort of the behind-the-scenes Xero. What you can do is, if you have an e-based store, you can link your e-based store directly with Xero, and all of the transactions can flow through and fill out relevant fields that you kind of do a field-matching thing, and fill out the fields into Xero. There are lots and lots of products that will integrate with Xero in that way.
So Xero, you consider to be a back-end accountant solution: doing your finances, doing your BAS, doing your company taxes. But then, if you need to manage inventory, if you have project management happening, you come in and you connect these different systems in.
And there’s another thing if you’re in fact based anywhere in the world, have a look at OneSaas. What that is, is for anyone who hasn’t built a direct add-on connection into Xero, it unlocks many hundreds of other applications that will then feed into Xero, such as your MailChimp, your SalesForce, your CRM products.
So someone goes on to eBay and all of a sudden, within seconds, you have all their contact information in your Xero database if you want it, which is just massive, massive time saver, massive data-entry saver. Totally integrated, seamless systems, and life’s a lot easier.
Pete: That’s fantastic. Just awesome. Our telco business, we have SAP B1, which is obviously a behemoth of accounting and management software. But some of the smaller e-commerce subdivisions, we are moving those across to Xero because it’s just so much smoother, and because we have some of our team in the Philippines who do some of the data entry when it comes to entering in AP invoices from our suppliers.
With Xero, you can obviously limit access as well. So the team in the Philippines can’t see any of the actual accounting or bank records, or anything like that. All they have the ability to do is go in and actually enter invoices into the system.
So then the invoices are sitting there, you have your bank feeds automatically, and you as a manager or your accounts person just goes in once a week, or once a day, and just goes yeah, that payment to Supplier A for $1500 matches the invoice. You hit okay. Bang, there, you’re done. There’s your reconciliation done. It’s absolutely brilliant.
Heather: Unbelievable. And going back to that, there are systems out there like Shoeboxed, like Receipt Bank and Invitbox but you actually send all your source documents to and they scan them and they extract all the data automatically for you. So if you don’t have a backup in the Philippines, it extracts all the data and feeds it directly into Xero for you again.
Pete: Let me ask you this question, because I do use Shoeboxed but limited a little bit. For just literally paper receipts that you receive at the store. Could, as a business, send their actual AP invoices from a supplier to Shoeboxed?
Heather: Yes. That is one that you can do. I think there’s another one called Invite. I’ll think of the name while we’re talking. But yes, you should be able to and put that in. But there is another one. I think it’s called Invitbox.
Pete: So you could literally just outsource and automate your entire basic data-entry side of accounting anyway.
Heather: Yeah, Invitbox. I think you have show notes so I’ll make sure I get the correct name and put it in there. But what it does is you actually set up an e-mail address. So rather than your invoice from Telstra or from whomever it’s coming from, go to you, it actually goes directly to this service and it extracts the data and just feeds it directly into your system. So, quite amazing, the time savings involved with that and the detail coming through.
But again, it’s about you can’t abdicate responsibility. You need to keep monitoring what they’re doing and that it suits your requirements. I know with some of them, some time; I think there’s one, and I won’t mention it, but one doesn’t bring across invoice numbers. So for some of us, that’s a bit of a concern. It’s not pulling up the invoice numbers.
You need to go, does this suit my requirements? Is this doing what I do? But yeah, massive time saver. It gives the small person running; as you probably are aware, businesses can run out of a garage but they can be massive at what they’re actually able to do with this sort of software, with a fast internet connection. It’s just incredible.
Pete: It’s absolutely amazing. And this is what, I guess, you do besides, obviously, writing 20 books in a year, which is insane its own right. But again, using leverage: you’re producing a book, but at the same time producing social media marketing content and blogging content.
So you’re using that leveraged approach to content creation as well, which I love. You obviously do this sort of consulting work at your primary business, is that correct?
Heather: Yeah, that pays the bills, unfortunately. That pays the bills. Book writing doesn’t necessarily pay the bills.
Pete: It is quite strange when in Australia that the government make more money in GST revenue than you do as an author in royalties for a book. It’s quite absurd.
Heather: Yes, absolutely. But again, for me, what I did was I extracted myself from a lot of volunteering roles and said, “If I do this, this is going to help a lot of people.” And that’s what I did. So it was kind of like, no, I can’t volunteer, I can’t volunteer. You know how mums get caught up in volunteering.
Pete: Absolutely. Good ol’ PTA.
Heather: Exactly. So I said okay. And look, as I’m sure you probably get people contact you and say this made a massive difference to my life. That’s really gratifying.
Pete: Absolutely. That’s why we do the podcasts and our blog. Our businesses do very, very well, but for me this is my chance of talking about my experiences and learnings and hopefully help other people get to where I’m at. So I completely understand.
In terms of the book, and Xero and thing, we spoke earlier and we worked out a way to have a really cool thing for listeners. Do you want to sort of run through how that works?
Heather: Well, I am happy to offer a prize giveaway on your show, if you’re able to do that. Happy to offer a signed copy of this book, which is Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days, and my next book, which is Xero for Dummies, but that’s when it’s published, and an invitation to an online, live question-and-answer session where you can ask me whatever you would like. So that’s a prize giveaway that you can choose.
Pete: Let’s do something like this. Anybody who has an experience around any of these, have used Xero to success, they’ve obviously heard this and implemented some stuff, or anything around that sort of automation for their accounts and starting up, and the blandness of start-up they’ve learned and taken away.
They can e-mail support [at] preneurgroup [dot] com with a little case study and things like that. Just e-mail support [at] preneurgroup [dot] com. We’ll pick some entries and go from there.
Heather: Fantastic, fantastic. And if listeners want to purchase a Xero subscription through me, if they mention this podcast, I’m happy to offer them a free basic setup. The specifications for that are on my website, which is HeatherSmithSmallBusiness.com/Xero. So, you probably don’t want me to go through the specifics, but happy to offer them. If they sign up to Xero through me, happy to offer them a free basic setup.
Pete: Awesome. And Xero is spelled X-E-R-O. Obviously, the good ol’ links will be in the show notes and stuff like that.
Heather: I always do the- what’s that, Deal or No Deal? No Deal! X!
Pete: The cross they do.
Heather: To really get it for people, because I think even my publishers were going, it’s a Z? No, no, no, it’s an X.
Pete: It’s X. The good ol’ Web 2.0 names and stuff like that, which you talk about in your book as well.
Heather: Yes. Yes, I do in detail. Yes.
Pete: Well, let me ask you the usual question that we finish off with at the end of every conversation we have here. What’s been the one question that I haven’t asked you, that I should have?
Heather: Okay, because I’ve just listened to, I think, all of your podcasts over the last week.
Pete: So you’ve come prepared?
Heather: I’ve come prepared.
Pete: Damn it!
Heather: I was thinking initially I should go with- do you listen to Pierce Morgan?
Pete: Yeah, a little bit.
Heather: And he always goes, have you ever truly been in love? So no, I won’t go with that question. But as you’ve just had a new baby in your life, congratulations on that.
Pete: Thank you, very much.
Heather: I wasn’t sure whether listening to it, whether it would still be new or not. Can you run a business around children? So that, I thought would be a good topic to end on.
Pete: That is an answer— I would like the answer to as well. The little fellow, Eli is only six weeks old, or seven weeks old now as we record this. The first three or four weeks, my answer would have been absolutely not. I was absolutely shocked with what was the lifestyle change.
I think as most parents know, you can’t really prepare for it. And I was very arrogant about thinking I’d be able to deal with it and it was very much a shock. But now, I’m sort of getting to that routine. But I would love to hear some expert advice on this.
Heather: Alright. I think that you absolutely can run a business around children. I think you have to go with the flow of it, and the time involved, etcetera. But what’s going to happen, and what’s going to amaze you, is the amount of new people who are going to come into your life and in the different elements that he goes through; and that he’ll go through kindergarten and preschool and school.
I have a friend who’s formed a massive company with another guy at, how about this, one of them was standing on one side of the bouncy castle supervising the kids while the other guy was standing on the other side. Standing there at a kid’s party talking, and so they formed a business over holding up this bouncy castle.
So I think that children invite a massive amount of new people into your life, which can be really interesting. And you have some really interesting— I’m trying not to sound slimy, snaky person, but really interesting network and opportunities from having children. Children also teach you, as you’ve said before, patience. They teach you unbelievably good negotiating skills.
You wait ‘til what they’ll convince you to part with from your pocket. I, myself try, my kids are now teenagers; but from a very young age, I tried to incorporate them in the business. Getting them to do tasks, even as simple as putting a stamp on an envelope.
I frequently talked to them about- like someone who perhaps owes me money and is refusing to pay, something like that. I talk to them about those sorts of scenarios so they have an awareness of what’s actually going on in the reality of business, rather than put it down into textbooks.
But saying all of that, I think you have to then still keep a professional appearance. If you have an important meeting with a fashion designer, and you’re taking some of your clothes along to him, don’t turn up there with your baby. Sort out some babysitting arrangement.
Don’t do that, because that will just crush you and they won’t have that same respect for you. However, I’ve had very wealthy, well-to-do businesses ring me up and say look, “Can you come and help us? But we’ll be breastfeeding. Do you have a problem with that?” Now, I don’t have a problem with that and I very much tell people I’m a mom running this business.
So, it will attract a certain demographic of people. And for me, that’s completely fine. I actually find a lot of men running businesses love to help women. Like men perhaps higher up the chain, love to help women in business. I don’t know whether that sounds sexist or not.
But they really applaud the fact that I say— I no longer say it, but it used to be I work school hours. And they applaud that. So I think very definitely you can fit it in, that it’s going to open up lots of different opportunities for you. Just embrace them and work with them.
Pete: Yeah. Could not agree more. But in terms of the negotiations tactic, I’m going to try crying and throwing a tantrum in the next board meeting and see how that goes.
Heather: Yes, but if you turn up with your baby, if you need to convince a woman to do anything, she’ll say, of course I will. Of course I will! What a cute baby!
Pete: Exactly. Awesome. Well, thank you so much for your time, Heather. The book is out now, is that right?
Heather: Yes, it’s out in book stores at the moment. It’s a real book! Everyone goes, is it a real book? Yes, it’s a real book, Learn Small Business Start-Up in 7 Days.
Pete: Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for your time. Appreciated all the advice. And definitely guys, check out Xero as an option for your business. And if you are going to go that way, definitely take up Heather’s offer to help get the basic setup at no cost, because it’s an absolute no-brainer. So thank you very much, and talk to you soon.
Heather: Thank you very much. Cheers. Appreciate it.
http://heathersmithsmallbusiness.com – Find out more about Heather Smith
http://www.xero.com/ – Online accounting software
http://www.writerscentre.com.au – Australia Writers’ Centre
http://www.onesaas.com/ – OneSaas
https://www.invitbox.com/ – Invitbox
https://www.receipt-bank.com/ – Receipt Bank
http://preneurmedia.tv/shoeboxed – Shoeboxed
Special PreneurCast Listener Offers from Our Sponsors:
http://heathersmithsmallbusiness.com/xero/ – As a special offer to PreneurCast listeners, Heather has offered a free basic setup of the Xero platform for anyone signing up to the service through her link (mention this podcast episode)
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