From XU Magazine, 
Issue 26

Book review - Selling to serve

XU Magazine’s CEO, David Hassall, received the revised and updated edition of James Ashford’s book - a bestseller on Amazon! David reviewed this practical guide on how to ensure that you’re not being a busy fool...
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Written by James Ashford (owner of pricing, proposal and engagement letter software GoProposal and the accountancy practice MAP) this is a real-life guide on how to ensure that you’re building a profitable business and not just dealing with the chaos that each day might bring when you open up your phone, tablet or laptop. Selling To Serve was initially released in 2016 with the fourth edition released in 2021. The updates have brought some concepts along further but this latest read now also looks to tackle some real life issues that may be affecting your practice, such as Covid-19.

The thing that has always attracted me to this book is that it’s tangible and practical advice by someone who is actually doing it on a daily basis with their own clients and team. 

So many accountants and bookkeepers end up managing chaos and dealing with surface issues, essentially treading water, rather than dealing with core issues and developments meaning that progress is very rarely or never made. If you look over the past 5-10 years there have been so many things in society that have been questioned and ultimately changed. ‘It’s always been done this way’ and ‘that’s just the industry that we’re in’ are no longer acceptable. The accounting and finance world feels like one of the places in which we are going to see lots of changes and breaking away from these industry stereotypes. The concepts that Ashford covers in this book are nothing new: making profit; reducing stress; feeling valued; having more time. Why then is it so difficult for this industry to obtain one or more of these, especially over a prolonged and sustainable period of time. It seems that 99% of it comes down to mindset and confidence. In this book Ashford has carried out an excellent job of detailing how to harness that mindset into creating the tangible results for your business.

I struggled to pull out many things that are missing from this book. However, one of the things that I would like to have seen more of is how to take these principles and work with others in your team to carry them out. A big principle of the book is that ‘you’re not running an accountancy firm; you’re running a business’ and a business that is looking to grow well needs to have people in the right positions. To build a truly scalable business you need to be able to identify others that can not only carry out these principles but also manage them and ensure others are following, implementing and improving them.

You may have hundreds of clients screaming for your attention or have only just started out. Wherever you are in your practice journey, I would urge you to stop and dedicate time to this book and the follow up process. You may not feel like you have time to breathe with so much to do, but stopping to build new systems into your practice could be much more valuable than trying to get through the hundreds of items on your to-do list before midnight. The methods and implementation detailed in this book may not be the exact pathway for you, however I believe that the principles are for everyone in business.

Why leave it there?

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