First Times, Folding In Cheese and Accounting?
by Martha Yasso of Yasso Bookkeeping Solutions
The conversation goes something like this:
Advisor: So, how’s your cash flow? Client: (Face glazes over - most accountants know this look) Yeah, it’s fine. Advisor: My advice is to use a cash flow projection app so you’re more aware of how much cash you have. Client: We’re good. I’ve got it in my head and I know the bank balance so...
When I first thought of cash flow advisory, I couldn’t believe small businesses wouldn’t jump when their accountant offered to help map the ebb and flow. After all, cash flow is the key to all businesses succeeding or failing. (Think Toys “R” Us going bankrupt. You can’t tell me there’s no demand for toys.)
Then I began planning to offer cash flow advisory as a service with my business coach. He asked a simple question,” What is cash flow?” It wasn’t the question that surprised me. I figured he was asking me to put my service offering into words.
It was the look on his face. I see my friends get the same glaze over when I talk about being a bookkeeper and what I do for my clients. I began to understand my coach and friends were feeling something. I looked for other experiences when I saw a glazed-over reaction in my life. I didn’t know how to put the reaction into words. Then Brené Brown, who writes books about vulnerability both in business and in personal life, did it for me. She introduced me to the concept of FFTs (F**king First Times). You can check out Brene’s podcast “Unlocking Us” here.
What’s an FFT? It’s better to define an FFT without using words. Just watch the Netflix sitcom Schitt's Creek “Fold in the Cheese” clip. Formerly wealthy, mother and son, take on making an old family recipe. But neither knows how to cook.
Moira: Next step is to fold in the cheese.
David: What does that mean? What does "fold in the cheese" mean?
Moira: You fold it in.
David: I understand that, but how? How do you fold it? Do you fold it in half, like a piece of paper, and drop it in the pot, or,
Moira: David, I cannot show you everything.
David: Okay, well, can you show me one thing?!
Moira: You just... Here's what you do: You just fold it in.
David: Okay, I don't know how to fold broken cheese like that!
Moira: Then I don't know how to be any clearer! You take that thing that's in your hand, and you-
David: If you say "fold in" one more time-
Moira: It says, folds it in!
Yup, it’s a Brené Brown FFT: “When we have no relevant experience or expertise, the vulnerability, uncertainty, and fear of firsts can be overwhelming.”
So how do I help my clients experience the first time trying to understand cash flow, distributions, and balance sheets? I don’t like reinventing the wheel, so I looked for a process framework, and wouldn’t you know, Brené’s got it. Normalize the experience, put it into perspective, and reality check expectations.
Normalize the Experience
Brené describes this as no one knowing how to handle all situations. That anxiety, uncertainty and fear happen, and it’s OK to feel all of those things.
So acknowledge the glaze. Let the client know it’s ok to feel overwhelmed. Yeah, most people feel the same way when they first hear the term cash flow, balance sheet, distributions, and retained earnings etc, etc, etc.
Don’t let your client feel like they’re going through it alone. They’ll be less stressed if they know you understand and that the look they have will soon be replaced with an excitement about the deeper understanding they can have with money, cash flow, balance sheet, distributions, retained earnings etc, etc, etc.
Put It Into Perspective
Acknowledge the complexity. Brené defines perspective as a function of experience. Less experience, less perspective. As bookkeepers and accountants, we talk about these things every day. We already understand these concepts. We make the concepts easier to relate to, giving clients understanding and perspective.
It’s ok for clients not to know what cash flow is. They probably didn’t take accounting in college. If they did, they likely hated it! No wonder they don’t understand our lingo. It’s not their jam.
Reality Check Expectations
Brené says to reality check expectations and acknowledge the process. She reminds us the first time you do something isn’t going to be perfect, and don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle.
I don’t expect clients to get what accounting terms mean the first time. I expect to explain these concepts as my clients encounter changes in their business. I expect to reword, reiterate, and repeat myself. I expect to answer the same questions several times. And that’s ok with me.
Learning accounting concepts the first time is hard and overwhelming, but it won’t be a first time forever. Don’t let your client beat themselves up because they don’t get it. They’re adjusting to a new perspective of their business. As accountants, if you’ve read to this point, embrace the process and so will they. Trust me, you’ll be their hero!
Part problem solver, part community advocate, Martha Yasso uses more than 20 years of financial experience to deliver peace of mind to small business owners in the professional, trade, medical, and hospitality industries.
Martha is an Advanced Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor and expert who helps her clients succeed by implementing exceptional bookkeeping and cash management strategies.
On the weekends, you can find Martha tackling the New York Times crossword puzzle and the BeeHive word games.