Building a Remote, 8 Person Firm in 25 Hours per Week

The innovative Della Hudson started and grew a sellable business, working only 25 hours per week. On this week’s Growing Your Firm podcast, we’re asking how she did it!

Della breaks the mold in how she approaches her marketing and lead generation as a speaker, coach, and award-winning author of the books The Numbers Business: How To Grow A Successful Cloud Accountancy Practice and Growing By Numbers: How To Scale Up Your Business With Confidence.

Podcast

Summary

  • Selling the Firm
  • The Organization of the Firm
    • Personal Assistant and Accountant
    • Client Ratio
  • Gaining Leads Using Social Media

Selling the Firm

Della’s tagline listed on her Twitter account is “Mentoring accountants to build a better business in 25hrs/week.” Work will come through the boundaries you set for it. When Della first started her business, she was raising children, and she had to fit all the work she did within a typical school day: 25 hours per week.

The business that Della Hudson sold in 2017 was highly systemized and structured so that it did not particularly rely on her involvement to operate. Instead, her role as a leader centered on being the face of the business. Personally, she is a triathlete, an identity which she uses uniquely as she markets herself on social media. In fact, Della explains that “Just prior to selling the firm, I did an Iron Man triathlon, and so I cut my working hours down to 15 hours per week so I could do 15 hours a week training for the Iron Man.”

To better understand how she could create such flexibility with her time to train and participate in the Iron Man, we first need to look at how she structured her business.

The Organization of the Firm 

First off, right from the start, the team was set up for remote working, so the whole team—8 in total— wouldn’t necessarily be in the office. At the initial introductions, clients would meet some of the team present at the office. The team worked flex-time and part time. Della continues, “We'd make the introductions, so that people knew there was a team behind me when we received their accounts.” 

It’s also worth mentioning that Della has a personal assistant who would email them the relevant details of the accountant who was going to be looking after them. So through careful orchestration, Della set up a system to ensure that clients were dealing with a person all the way through, but with a friendly front-end.

Personal Assistants and Accountants

Some may have stumbled onto a quagmire: when is it appropriate to hire a personal assistant? Many are concerned that they are not “big enough” to make such a hire, but Della’s example clearly illustrates a break from the assumption.

She hired a personal assistant for two principal reasons: 

  1. To make sure everything runs smoothly behind the scenes.
  2. To ensure a personal touch when interacting with clients, creating a stellar first impression.

Between these two reasons, she explains that she finds little value in making direct calls to clients for certain kinds of information, like books or signatures. Her emphasis on creating a warm, personal interaction with clients spills over to how she handles the accounts who are assigned to clients. 

She tries to keep the same accountant working for the same client for at least three years. Della says “It wasn’t always possible. Sometimes the main contact was busy with something else...so we did not allocate them as permanent accounts manager,” she continues that she still prefers to give both the accountant and the client a breath of fresh air by allowing a new set of eyes to look at the business and numbers.

Client Ratio

Della had her staff in rotation as they worked with clients, balancing a personal touch with efficacy, but how many people could each staff member serve?

It depends on the client, and again, Della illustrates her emphasis not on quantity but quality and need

When she has a client with complex needs, then she may assign a fully qualified accountant. On the other hand, if the client is large but with less complexity, she may hire a junior trainee with the fully qualified accountant supervising. “Accountants were allocated matching the right client to the right individuals.” Della further divulged that she was taught that as a general rule of the thumb, the accountants should earn about three times their salary.

Gaining Leads Using Meetings and Social Media

With a clever way of maneuvering her team to help her clients, one can’t help but wonder where does she find her clients? We have offered several tips for generating leads and finding clients in our blog. Here are a few general pointers you may want to consider:

  1. If using LinkedIn, be sure to post high quality content consistently.
  2. In contrast with LinkedIn, Twitter is a chatty platform. So running ads are cheaper, and you can strategically run ads to convert your leads into prospects.
  3. Consider attending and hosting online meetings and seminars for its cost effectiveness and reach.

For Della, about 30% of her clients came through social media, and she dedicates a lot of time on Twitter. She also recalls how the blend of expertise and social media know-how was pivotal to establishing authority:

“We used to run quarterly events and branded them as ‘Money Matters’ events with myself and a guest speaker. We spoke on some topic that would help growing businesses, about taxes and accounts; It just wasn't interesting enough.”

When she was doing in-person events, seminars, and network circles, she was sure to engage her audience by approaching them with familiar topics that were relatable: motherhood, triathlons and training, and other sports. It is through the personal social media space that she can chime in whenever someone may have a tax or accountant-related question on social media. 

And by working with another person, they bring in their own contacts, which further expands her network and reach. Through social media events and referrals, and sometimes some direct mail advertisements, she will often get quick responses. The only downside is that the clients tended to be small; however, even smaller clients have the potential to become the best clients when your business is systemized well.

Della echoes this sentiment, stating that it often takes three years for her best clients to “come in.” It first begins with a conversation about her services, then bookkeeping, accounts and business advisory. Clients may want certain services, but they can’t afford it; so in the meantime they work with what they can afford. The best clients took three years to land because “they understood the benefits of the full package with the advisory,” as Della explained.
Want to reach out to Della personally? You can find her on Twitter at @DellahudsonFCA, or you can visit her website at www.hudsonbusiness.co.uk.

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