We all know the advice about “being yourself.” But in business and especially for accounting professionals, it’s hard to reconcile how to be ourselves and still act the part. On day two of Xerocon Atlanta, we were lucky to have a special panel where three change-makers discussed how individuality is, in fact, your competitive advantage.
Jina Etienne, Director of Diversity & Inclusion at Grant Thornton led the conversation with two other inspiring business leaders: Kate Watts, CEO and founder of Faire Design and Elaine Pofeldt, independent journalist and author of The Million Dollar, One-Person Business.
We heard first-hand their lessons about elevating their businesses – and their clients’ businesses – above the crowd. They shared tips on how to recognize the toolbox at your disposal, using innovation, inclusion, and adaptability to help you transform your practice on your terms.
When Kate was establishing her business, she was looking for up and coming technology to manage her business’ accounting. She chose Xero, and by doing so, she’s been able to build her business to where it is today. The panelists discussed how technology platforms like Xero enable you to focus on more important things.
“You’re on the cutting edge using a platform like Xero,” Elaine said. “You can focus on high-value activities so you can take a break from the business and think more clearly.”
They went on to talk about how you can leverage technology to fit your unique lifestyle. Elaine started freelancing 10 years ago when she had young children because she wanted more flexibility. She said she has made every mistake possible when it comes to running a business and has learned a lot of lessons along the way.
“Protect your time,” Elaine said. “I put everything in my calendar, from family events, to yoga, to personal appointments.”
You can protect your time by using digital calendars to allow people to book time with you when you are available. When it came to her work schedule, Kate had a similar realization when she first became a mother – becoming ruthlessly efficient with her time.
“I found something really interesting happened when I had my first child,” Kate said. “I realized I could no longer work those long hours. I actually became more efficient and realized before that I couldn’t see the forest through the trees.”
The panelists discussed how uniqueness is a key differentiator and how you can leverage it to market yourself and your business. Kate said when it comes to accounting firm websites, you should look at the language, tone and imagery used and make sure it’s reflective of the real you.
“Use actual imagery of yourself and people that work with you,” Kate said. “People get a real sense of who you are from that.
When it comes to being yourself at work, it works on a two-way street and it’s just as important to understand who your clients are.
“Being who you are is truly important,” Kate said. “You also need to flex to your client and be empathetic and listen. Understand what their authenticity is. When you start to understand that everyone has imposter syndrome then you will start to understand on a human level the vulnerability everyone has.”
“Look at your clients and how you present your pricing and services and therefore yourself to them,” Kate said. “Adapting to how your clients are moving goes back to that empathy. Accounting can be innovative, but you need to innovate with your clients.”
They ended on some truly powerful advice.
“Debits are debits and credits are credits – that part never changes,” Jina said. “But it’s about how you deliver your services. When it comes to being different in the accounting space, it’s challenging to be comfortable. Learn to be comfortable in yourself and embrace it.”