Fear Less Series | Chapter 3 – Fusion Accountants
Welcome to Chapter 3 of The Fear Less Series where we chat with Emma over at Fusion Accountants on finding ways to balance starting up a business while still supporting children through education and growing confidence as the face of your business.
Chapter 3: Fusion Accountants
This chapter explores the fears of supporting family, believing in your ability to start, and being the face your business.
12 minutes estimated reading time.
Tell us a little bit about what you do and your business.
I’m an accountant by trade and worked for many years at a couple of different firms. It’s interesting, because I never had the vision to work for myself. I guess it was because I lacked the confidence, but it was actually my husband who got behind me to start my own business.
While I had my degree and my CPA, if you want to be an accountant, you then need to be a registered tax agent – which is so much paperwork! I got that in place, then for the first couple of years I literally only did a couple of tax returns.
Then my husband said, why don’t you get your Certificate of Public Practice, which is a 6 month course! I ticked that off next. I think my husband has always had more confidence in me than I had in myself. He’s always been so supportive. After that, I set up my business name – we came up with Fusion Accountants and started the business – and that was 5 years ago.
From the beginning I started to grow my client base while I worked part-time. We had three teenage daughters in high school at the time and you’re paying all those school fees. So while my husband said to go full time with the business back then, I continued to work 4 days in my part-time role so I had the security of money while not worrying about the uncertainty of my own business’ income.
In the last couple of years we’ve been looking for the opportunity to push the business to the next stage, and in December last year I finished up with my part-time job and now I’m 100% on my own!
It certainly didn’t happen overnight for us. You hear of some people who quit their full time job to start a business the next day and that’s it, but for me it’s been a much slower process and that’s okay.
Do you have a team or are you a one woman show?
It’s just me!
How do you currently feel about your business?
I feel excited! Basically, because I have this opportunity that I haven’t had before.
Over four years I’ve steadily taken on more clients quite organically, whereas now, I can be more proactive.
There’s a lot of talk about working on your business rather than in your business, and I feel like I haven’t had the chance to work on my business yet because I’ve only had time to work with my clients. So I’m looking forward to that!
Early in your business, what was a scary step that now seems small and insignificant?
The idea that I’d even be here was quite scary!
Even little things like listing myself on a directory. I remember going to an event, and they suggested I put my photo on my profile and I thought “Oh my gosh, I can’t do that!” *laughs*.
Little things like that – being the face of my business used to be quite scary and now I’m actually quite proud to say this is who I am, this is what I do!
It’s amazing, and I think it’s good to look back at those things and appreciate how far you’ve come, so you can tell yourself – that’s no problem, no worries!
Yes, and also when I’d worked previously in firms, the partners, or owner, of the business would generally deal direct with the clients and that would be kept quite guarded. So another scary step for me was dealing directly with clients – that was probably the biggest thing – to actually talk with them in person about their business and be the face of my own business.
Has there been any other aspect of your business that has scared, stopped or held you back in some way – even now?
The fear of failing is always there.
That’s also why I took the conservative approach to keep my income as an employee.
There’s definitely fear in thinking “Well what if I can’t get new clients?”, but they talk about turning your weaknesses into your strengths, so then it becomes a challenge and the opportunity to recognise that. Then it’s about working out what are my steps, how am I getting out there, what am I going to do to get those new clients?
I completely agree with that, and I think fear is something that comes with working for yourself. I don’t think it’s something that goes away but maybe it is something you learn to tackle better on some days than others. Like anything, I’m sure the work fluctuates depending on the time of year, which makes it so important to refocus during those quiet times and make sure that’s the time you’re working ON your business.
Yes! One thing I realise now is that at the end of the day, I can be the very best accountant that exists but you actually need to be able to sell yourself.
I think I had no idea until I started my business, that especially in a home-based small business where I’ve consciously chosen to do that, it means I don’t have a physical presence. I don’t have 20,000 cars driving past an office, so you realise it becomes not just about being an accountant but being a marketer and a sales person so you can actually sell your business. That’s definitely my challenge, as I’m fairly introverted, but I know I need to put myself out there.
How does fear affect you? Emotionally or physically or both?
A bit of both. I start feeling clammy and it definitely affects me emotionally. I guess that’s why it took nearly 5 years for me to step into my business full time.
I’m hoping in another 12 months’ time I’ll say, “Why didn’t I do this years ago!”
Although, to support our daughters through school, I think we took the practical steps that were right for us at the time. We also put extra money I earned through my business into a separate account so that we had a buffer for me to start full time to make sure money wasn’t a fear factor to start my business anymore.
Definitely. It’s like you put up shields to protect yourself from it and also took the steps in your business at the timeline you needed for you and your family.
Not everyone can just jump in head first. In your case, asking yourself “What’s the worst that could happen?” – you could have no income and not be able to pay for your children’s education, which you wanted to prevent. It’s great recognising that and ensuring it didn’t happen.
That’s right, everyone has a different journey. That was important for us and I wanted to be in a place where I could have a 12 month period of time where I didn’t need to make a certain amount of money and things could continue to flow smoothly regardless.
What kind of things do you end up doing when you’re avoiding the obstacle?
If the facts present themselves that it can be beneficial to my business, then I just go ahead and do it. Usually when you do it, it doesn’t end up being a big deal anyway.
If there’s a project that’s a little tricky, inside I’m going “Oh my goodness, can I do this?” but to the client I’m very professional and I’ll say “Yep, I can do that – no problems!”
You get off the phone and go – “Oh my gosh!” – then hop onto Google and refresh yourself on what you need to know. *laughs*
So yeah – professional on the outside, but behind the scenes it’s okay to sit there and go – OMG!
Yes! I think there’ll always be situations that crop up, where you know you can probably do it, but you’ll need to do some Googling before you can get there. 99% of the time, you end up doing a great job and that’s fantastic but when they first ask, you freeze up before telling yourself – let’s do this!
Exactly, I’ve thought to myself a few times – I’m not sure how I could’ve started a business without Google! *laughs*
Google is my best friend.
Seeing where you were when you first started and where you are now, what’s an aspect of your life where you’ve felt you’ve changed or become better as a result of overcoming your fear from running your business?
I’ve definitely become more confident.
At the end of the day, the first client I had walk into my office and sit opposite me – that’s a client who never knew they were my first client. Even though inside I’m thinking “I’m so nervous, what do I say, I feel like I’m mixing my words” – externally it didn’t show. Certainly now I look forward to seeing my clients, whereas in the early days I used to feel quite anxious.
Now I have the confidence and knowledge of experience where I believe in the products I use and services I provide.
What is one piece of advice that you would give to someone who is trying to overcome fear in their business?
My biggest piece of advice is to have a good network around you.
I mentioned my husband was the one who encouraged me to start my practice initially. For me that’s been incredibly important.
Whether you have the support from your parents or your partner, just having that immediate support means if you do have fears, they can be alleviated if you do have someone to talk to.
So, home support is number 1, and then support around you. I love the SA Woman group because it’s all women in business and I love seeing the creativity from different businesses and what people are getting up to. I also have a network of accountants and other people around, so I really have that circle of support.
At the end of the day, a problem shared is a problem halved. Especially when I talk to other women in the same business as me, and if I have an issue – they’ve usually had it too. Having people you can bounce your fears off of can help diminish them.
Knowing someone has gone through the same thing helps immensely, knowing that it’s not just you.
From a practical point of view, and as an accountant, if someone came to me and one of their fears was “Will I make any money?” I’d say “What do you need to live on for 12 months, and can you put that aside? Can you work 2 jobs and create the buffer you need?”
My last piece of advice would be to upskill yourself if your fear is from not knowing. Watch a Youtube video or learn in order to overcome them.
What are some ways you coax yourself through fear?
For me, it’s a matter of walking away and coming back to the block at another time.
Sometimes I can sit and keep looking at an issue time and time again, but I keep seeing the same problem. So I’ll walk away and do a different task before coming back to it or speak to somebody to get a different point of view or find a solution.
As the saying goes – come to me with solutions, not problems. So if something isn’t right, what can we do to fix it?
Do you think moving through fear or working with fear is necessary to grow in business?
I think it is.
I think a little bit of fear is a good thing.
It makes you vigilant, it makes you look at your life and ask yourself – “well how CAN we do this?”
What’s your current relationship with fear and your business at the moment?
It’s going pretty well!
I would say it’s because I have the opportunity this year to proactively try and grow.
I feel quite positive I’ve set myself up to grow, without the pressure of suddenly having to triple my income in 2 months, because that’s probably not going to happen.
We’ll see – maybe in another 12 months I’ll be saying I’m really scared because I didn’t get a single new client! *laughs*
What is The Fear Less Series?
There is strength in fear, if you know where to look.
The Fear Less Series aims to open a conversation and help women in business draw strength from their fears.
To help grow their own business, or find a connection with women going through similar thoughts and processes to better themselves every single day.
Last time we spoke with Sandra from Hashtag Insta Prints for Chapter 2, exploring the fears of earning enough money, confidence and trying new things.