My Journey - Kris McCulloch
Much of my business has been shaped by previous experiences in my working life.
My first role after leaving school taught me the absurdity of measuring time rather than results. I was an office junior at a local sawmill. I tended to arrive early, and as I was never a big tea or coffee drinker I often had no breaks other than my lunch, which I often cut short. I can still remember comments from the team about how quickly and accurately I worked.
I recall one day as I finished all my work, standing up to leave at 4.50pm and being asked by my immediate supervisor where I was going. I was shocked when telling him I was going home he replied “You don't finish until 5, sit down. You don't need to do anything, just sit.”
On reflection, without this experience maybe I would not be so adverse to hourly billing today. Perhaps I should track down that supervisor and thank him for the path he put me on.
The next few years I spent in the voluntary sector in community work roles. This was mainly supporting local groups through training and accessing funding. Part of this role was to independently verify their accounts on behalf of funders. It was here I discovered a love of figures, and especially when things weren't going well.
Being offered the manager role at a credit union helped combine that love of figures, with my love of developing services, people and marketing. Before long I was offered another manager role at another, larger, credit union.
Before too long I found myself in a role with the local authority which I began to really dislike. We had been testing psychometric analysis systems at the time, and having had more than one test done I realised I was not going to fit in with a local authority role, but the money was good so I stuck it out.
I remember my manager, who had been the sales manager for Johnny Walker in a past life, telling me that the council was not the place for me, that I would excel in the private sector. Having never worked in that sector, I didn't take too much notice.
A few years passed by, and I was finding myself increasingly at odds with the local authority mentality. My first children were on the way so I stuck it out. The 16th of July 2007 was a day that changed my life, my boys Finlay and Fraser were born at just 28 weeks gestation.
The next month was to put my life into perspective. At just 1lb 11oz, Fraser was not to make it beyond 29 days. Suddenly I realised that everything I thought was important in my life no longer was.
I spiraled into a depression that lasted almost until the birth of Aiden, my third son in 2009.
The opportunity of redundancy came up and I grabbed it with both hands. I decided that I would start my own business. It could combine everything I loved in my work history, and allow me to spend time with the most precious thing in my life, my family.
I decided that AAT was the route to go, until a kind man from HLC convinced me to choose a body I had never before heard of, ICB. Having got through my exams quickly and with practice license in hand I spent more of my redundancy on a garden office and kitted it out.
With a few adverts and my office in place I waited, and waited, and waited for that first client. Days turned to weeks and soon I'd find myself at my desk crying. Not a natural risk taker, I had risked my families money and had nothing to show for it. Six months later I had my first client. I tweaked my marketing, realising that “build it and they will come” had never been less true.
I tweaked my pricing. Once again I found that my love of marketing was seeing me through. I had little interest in what others were doing at that time, I was too busy beating my own path. Little did I know it was a completely different path from almost every other bookkeeper in the UK. While they were charging by the hour, that earlier experience told me I had to focus on the deliverables and not the time involved.
Client by client, the business grew.
Still working round my family I was making different decisions from my peers. While most were building bigger and bigger businesses, my aim was very different. I was working hard to devise a way where I could work less hours and still earn what I needed. Being rich was never something of great importance to me, having a great work life balance was far more beneficial.
I found myself passing clients who would take up too much time for those I could easily systemise. My focus was clear. Earn the same for working less hours. As I began to become more involved in the industry I began to realise that what I was doing was very different from others, and was more than happy to share that experience.
Through various forums, and eventually bkpr, I found that my love of marketing and, in particular, pricing was once again coming to the fore. I loved helping other bookkeepers more than I loved the bookkeeping. My aspirations to work smarter lead me to explore other pricing options, which is when I stumbled across value pricing, and my favourite, menu pricing.
With menu pricing I found I could systemise more, and earn more for less hours. Sharing this knowledge with bookkeepers has been a massive privilege for me. I was invited to speak on pricing at The Bookkeepers Conference in 2015. Many who know me will know how I battled with myself over this.
Confidence is never something I've had loads of, and I almost said no for fear of thinking I had nothing others would want to hear. With the exception of the days my boys were born, that one day proved to have the most profound impact on my life. I love every minute of the time I spend helping other bookkeepers to build and improve their business.
With The Bookkeepers Alliance building momentum I really feel that the bookkeepers of the UK's time is now. It's a really exciting time to be in the industry, and I am in the privileged position of working with some of the very best bookkeepers in the country.
I wouldn't change it for anything!