I am a big believer that whilst I run my small business, community comes before competition. Relationships come before profit. And happiness comes before growth.

Yes, I have over 100,000 competitors in the accounting & bookkeeping space in Australia alone – but I see those people as my mentors, my rocks, my shoulders to cry on, my support network to learn from and my community first and foremost.

“Call me crazy, but my competitors could never be me. God, why would they want to try!”

This past week alone I have had two amazing experiences which outlines why I think the bookkeeping industry is so amazing. Maybe some others can learn from this (or even some within our industry as trust me I have seen the bitchy side too).

So how can you have a growing business, be part of a community and avoid the hidden agendas?

1.Know your unique selling point. Know it. Live it. Be it. Nail it. Now I am rather known for my “ranty posts”, I am known to wear bright dresses matched with trainers, perhaps my hair is more on the windswept side, my mascara is always on point and I am usually smiling and laughing (with the odd swear word thrown in). Fact of the matter is, that is me. 100% me. That is not fake – and if anybody tries to be “me” – then most people can see straight through it. So sure, lots of competitors do similar work, but we are totally different people as business owners. So my competition is not really competition in that sense.

2. Trust is everything. I am a pretty honest person – I see things, I say it how it is, and I totally own that. One could say I am opinionated – but to be honest I think we are all opinionated I just have the balls to say it out loud and own my opinion. Like I said earlier – that is me. That is how I work and I expect the same of my clients. I want them to be honest, open, say what is bothering them and be up front about problems. I need to be able to trust my clients, but also others in the industry. Break my trust and it is very hard to repair that.

3. Do unto others. I have worked overseas many times and I have been in positions where I knew nobody and had to adapt. Working at a ski resort in California, working at a Summer Camp in New York, travelling to London with just a backpack (and staying for 4 years). If people had not taken me under their wing on those occasions – I would not have the fond memories that I do, nor would I have achieved so much. No hidden agendas. On Monday this week I was in Brisbane presenting at Westfield Northlakes for their Mummy Mornings. I wanted somewhere to work from in the afternoon – sure enough a lovely (and totally unknown) bookkeeper offered up a desk for me in her home office. She even offered to pick me up and not rely on the “dodgy taxis”. Seriously, I don’t know how I could repay Vianne. Such a simple gesture, no hidden agenda – just the offering of a desk because that is what a community does. No questions – just solutions.

4. Ideas board. You know how hard running a small business is right? The endless work, the late nights, the tech failures, the networking, the admin, the blog posts (OK – so maybe I have nailed that bit), the upskilling – god where does it all end? Well, what if you had trusted people in your network, in your industry, that face the same problems as you, that you could talk to openly, honestly and use as an ideas board? So I am not talking about paying $2000 a month to a business coach who really has no clue about your specific business. I am talking about a real life human who is living and breathing your everyday problems. Someone you can talk to, hit up for questions, have the coffee chats with – to encourage and support you. Someone who just totally gets you. And obviously this works both ways. I sat next to Sam for 2 days at this weeks MYOB training – and you know what – we even referred to ourselves as twins. We think alike, we had similar views, we do similar things – but did I see him as competition? Sure – but more importantly I saw Sam as someone I wanted in my network to help and inspire me. Someone I wanted to learn from and hopefully, this old duck can teach him a thing or two about the advisory space. And if not, I know we would have a great laugh over a beer!

“So if you are not looking at those within your industry as a community, I urge you to rethink who you are associating with. Do they really have your back?

The wealth of knowledge we have as a community, far outweighs the risk of competition. I am here to grow my business, and the more people in my network who can help me achieve that, the better if you ask me.