“Never start a business with a partner,” was the advice Meryl Johnston heard from her father growing up. After meeting her now-cofounder, Ben McAdam, and discussing the various needs in the bookkeeping niche, she decided she was going to try a business partner anyway. Now, she’s built her company, Bean Ninjas, into a 6-figure bookkeeping business.
Within 6 months of launching Bean Ninjas, Meryl and team 3x their growth and it continues to grow every month. Every month has been better than their prior month.
Along with Bean Ninjas, Meryl also runs her own consulting business, MCJ Consulting, where she helps implement cloud accounting into businesses who need to make the transition.
In this interview with David Cristello, on Grow Your Firm Podcast, Meryl walks you through:
- How to launch your own bookkeeping company in 7 days
- Her two main sources to grow their company in the beginning
- The BIG lesson she learned that hindered their growth
- MCJ Consulting
- Bean Ninja
- Meryl Johnston – Linkedin
- Dan Norris (7 Day Startup)
- Innovative Accountants & Bookkeepers Facebook Group
- Jetpack Workflow interview with Edward Mendlowitz
Why Meryl decided to become an Entrepreneur:
Meryl Johnston started off in accounting and worked her way up to a senior auditor position at one of the top-5 largest public accounting firms in the world. She realized many weekends and nights were spent in the office and not doing the things she loved. She is based in Australia, but working with a large,international company was not for her.
As many entrepreneurs, she wanted more freedom doing the things she loved and building what she wanted rather than be just a cog in the machine.
After landing other accounting positions, she decided to start her own consulting company in 2013, MCJ Consulting.
Building her First Company — A Consulting Practice:
MCJ Consulting worked with companies on implementing accounting processes as well as helped prepare businesses for their audits. She found she could charge much more than she made as an auditor.
The problem she found was it was very much “project-based.” Her income would fluctuate wildly from very well (when a project was ongoing) to very little (while searching for a project). With each project being different for each client, Meryl regularly had to find different staff to fill each project.
Since she was the sole founder, it was very difficult to scale the business. She could only take on one client at a time while also balancing the different contractors she worked with. She would need more and more staff to scale up the business.
It was during these ebbs and flows of being a consultant she realized something that set the foundation for Bean Ninja:
“Recurring revenue is much more profitable.” – Meryl Johnston
Founding Bean Ninja in 7 Days:
Bean Ninja grew from a two different interests: Helping in the bookkeeping niche where Meryl and her cofounder, Ben, saw plus their desire to start a business FAST.
Dan Norris has a popular program, 7 Day Startup, where the challenge is to build a company in 7 days. Meryl had a voice in her head from her father who told her “never start a business with someone” and with her consulting business she never had a cofounder.
With Bean Ninja, she decided to take a leap of faith and founded the company with Ben. She felt they both had a similar vision for the company, similar goals, plus (from what she learned consulting) they could both split the work.
In July 2015, Bean Ninja went live. The first 7 days, they built the website, built out the pricing, and looked for their first clients.
Growing Bean Ninja:
The first six months of Bean Ninja were slow. They did much of the bookkeeping themselves and did very little marketing.
After six months, they had about 15 clients and made around $3,500 per month. It was not sustainable for them, but they kept building. The target market they focused on was online companies and blogging. Their pricing (under $300 per month) was very affordable for the niche and they made sure to stay laser-focused on their niche.
Building the Client Base:
When Bean Ninja launched, Meryl’s first client was a referral from an online community she was in. She presented the idea to the community and immediately someone raised their hand. To grow her client base, originally they tried: cold calling, cold emailing, door knocking and other cold-methods. They didn’t work for them.
They both decided they enjoyed building relationships rather than just transactional relationships.
MERYL’S STEPS TO NEW CLIENTS:
- Join communities online [some are paid which means higher quality members]
- Provide value to them — Although a bookkeeping company, Meryl would spend time critiquing other member websites and even read a member’s book and provided notes.
- Spend 1 hour per day building those relationships in those communities.
- Focus on content marketing. Keep a log of your blog ideas. (Meryl uses Trello)
- Don’t miss out on word of mouth. Bean Ninja’s first clients were from simple referrals from friends and family.
- The way they reached out without being too “sales-y” was to make it about a story: “We took a 7 day startup challenge to build a company in 7 days. We decided to build a bookkeeping company. To get it off the ground, we are looking for our first clients and thought you might know someone…”
- This helped get their first clients right away.
Their popular content posts center around the actual growth of Bean Ninjas. Every month, Meryl posts the growth and revenues of the company. (Here’s an example). This helps them stand out in a unique way.
Pricing & the BIG LESSON:
Right away when it launched, Meryl and Ben experimented with pricing. Their first six months they kept it constant but recently bumped it for new clients.
For their first clients, they kept the price the same in order to reward them for taking the initial leap with them at launch. After they bumped the prices and worked on their marketing, Bean Ninja started growing much faster.
Their first six months, they made about $3,500 a month. Less than a year since launching, they are now over $14,000 (as of June 2016). A 6-figure company in less than a year!
A big lesson Meryl learned was: Hire Faster. She said they would have grown faster but they both spent so much time doing the actual bookkeeping and the operations, they couldn’t focus on growing the company.
Now, they’ve worked on their processes, outlined them, and now have account managers who will soon be helping with onboarding new clients.
This will allow the company to grow faster.
The right People + the right Processes in Place + Dedicated Founders who deliver a great Service, you can have your own 6-figure bookkeeping business.