Today I took my 11 year old to the circus for her birthday. I hadn’t been for 25 years so I was keen to see how it had changed. It had not.

The acts were the same lame acts. The sound system was so bad you could hardly hear the introductions. There was no air-conditioning in the big tent – a very hot day. The food was still horrible and the music was from 20 years ago as well.

The big top had a capacity of 608 seats and if it was 50% full it would be lucky. Overall a tired and poor performance that will go by the way of the Dinosaur if it does not re-invent. With major acts like Cirque Du Soliel operating amazing shows around the world it is no wonder this old tired business is not succeeding.

How relevant is your business? Are you re-inventing and staying up with the times? Are you listening (really listening) to your market? Are you technologically savvy? Are you up with the latest trends from around the world. If you are not re-inventing then you will superceded by faster, hungrier players. The world has moved on – have you?
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Today Nat & I were in the fashion capital of Australia – Melbourne.

In the morning I did the keynote speech for a conference of 129 Accountants and 1 lawyer. It was a rousing, thought provoking and challenging talk – at least that’s what the delegates told me.

Because Nat knew I was going to Melbourne she wanted to come with me – to shop. So I was finished by 11am and we were in a limo by 1120. Our driver, Tom, took us to place to place and dropped us off so we could walk and shop. We were due to rendezvous in a couple of hours.

What we did not realise was that as we walked he was ‘following’ us in the car. So we would literally come out of the shop with bags and he was there. Dump the bags in the car and off to the next place. It was very cool. However there is a problem with this service. When you are shopping without a driver / car you can only hold so much and you know when it is time to go home when your arms are tired.

We had to buy more luggage to bring the necessities home!

In my work with Accountants I find that courage (lack of) and self esteem (low) is killing progress. I cover the reasons why this is so in my new book ‘Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up‘ and in this post I wanted to cover what to do about it.

How do you build courage?

1) Get testimonials from clients. Ask them and they will write nice things about you. It can be audio, video, or text. Get permission to use your clients full details and pump it out to the world. It’ll make you feel better

2) Create case studies from clients. A case study should be structured as a ‘what, now, how, how’ story. Before we started working with you what did you used to look like? Now what do you look like. How did you do it and how did we help you do it. Get it in writing, get a photo of your client and pump it out to the world.

3) Ask your clients what value you create for them. Boldly ask where you have helped them and then go to no. 1 & 2 and get it in writing / on film.

4) Ask others before you price or do a new thing. If you bounce your idea off others then they may give you confirmation or give you a better view. Our coachingclub program does that every day – and so does our online forum where 750 Accountants talk every day about issues and opportunities.

5) Do a self review of yourself. Pump yourself up and give yourself a score card on the key things you are really good at. You must be good at something.

6) On point 5 – build on the strengths. Forget the weaknesses – hire someone to do that or outsource it. Do not learn how to do things you are not inclined to do or do not enjoy doing. If you are good at something get better at it.

7) Have a BIG desire to improve and change. The bigger your desire the easier things are. When the dream is big enough the facts don’t count!

Today Nat and I went to the Home Show in Brisbane. We are building quite a large house on 5 acres (on the top of a mountain) at the moment and we needed to see what ‘new stuff’ was out there. I was particularly taken with the home automation companies where you can run your entire house from your portable device – anywhere in the world. There was everything you could imagine to design, build, gadget and furnish a home at this show today.

We are spending a lot of money on our home and we are serious buyers. So you would think that everyone we spoke to would be interested in who we are and what we are building. Not the case.

Between us we visited 30 exhibitors collecting brochures and chatting with the reps. How many of them got our details to follow up……just 1.

We would have given our details to every one of them if they had asked. Instead only 1 asked. I gladly gave him my details. There were hundreds of companies represented spending tens of thousands to attract people to their exhibit. And only 1 in 30 bothered to ask so they could follow up.

And we wonder why businesses fail. No one asks. It’s not hard this game of business. Have a good product / service, do some marketing and ask for the business. Far out. Why do people not do this?

There was even one company (home automation company) where we had a good chat, I collected a brochure and even shook the hand of one of the 2 fellows. I asked them if they were the owners of the company. Yes was the reply. They acted like they were there under sufferance like an employee who wants to leave. And they own the damn company. My home automation spend will be somewhere between $150K and $250K on the new house. Big mistake, big … huge. That’s a line from the movie Pretty Woman.

What opportunities are you missing out on? Are you asking everytime? For an Accountant (my primary market) I think there are 7 questions you need to ask yourself every time you do a client project. The answers you take to your client as a new idea.

1.What ideas do you have to help this client grow revenue or wealth?

2.What ideas do you have to help this client increase their profit?

3.What ideas do you have to help this client understand and improve their cashflow?

4.What ideas do you have to help this client protect their assets?

5.What ides do you have to help this client with succession planning or selling their business?

6.What ideas do you have to minimise tax for this client in the future?

7.What other opportunities are there to provide extra services to this client that they are not already using?

Ask, ask, ask, ask. What’s the worst that can happen – they say no. At least you asked.

What’s your Ferrari?


To do what you want means you need to be living your dreams. Whatever they may be. You must first work out what you want from your life.

Ferrari – part 1

I was in Naples Florida at a worldwide consultant’s conference and over dinner one night our host (Alan) told a story of how a friend of his always wanted to buy a Ferrari but never did. The friend was severely injured in a BBQ explosion and the friends’ wife said to Alan ‘you know, he never did buy that Ferrari’. At that point in time another dinner guest (Mark) said to the table ‘so what’s your Ferrari?’

And around the table one at a time we were engrossed in stories of everyone’s inner most dreams and ambitions. It was an electrifying discussion. Fast forward to our annual coachingclub conference (Queenstown, NZ) and we had a very special ‘presenter’s dinner’ with all of the Speakers and Accountants who were presenting on stage over the 4 day event.

We were in a private room at an upmarket restaurant and Alan (being one of our guest speakers) was there. Alan told the story again and again we went around the table asking each Accountant (and other speakers) what their Ferrari was. It was amazing that deep down there were dreams not yet fulfilled and goals not yet met. One of the guest speakers (a Business Manager of a successful firm, Sean) leaned over to me and said ‘this is the best night of his life’.

Ferrari – part 2


At our next coachingclub conference (Hawaii, USA) I decided to do something more elaborate with this Ferrari story. In my opening keynote address the room was dark and I appeared on the big screen driving a racing Ferrari in full racing suit. Once the film was over, smoke appeared and I came through the smoke in my racing suit and helmet.

The conference room had a Ferrari theme to it and I told the Ferrari story complete with a slide show of potential ‘dreams’ that the audience may be interested in. I covered housing, travel, charity, sports, health, toys and overall lifestyle improvement. Once I was finished I gave the audience instructions to leave the conference room (this was only 15 minutes into a 4 day conference) with pad and pen and go and write down every conceivable dream, goal, aspiration and ambition they had and then come back in 1 hour.

The audience (all Accountants remember) came back buzzing. We had some of the audience share what they had written down – applause and tears followed. Then each person wrote a detailed plan to achieve their goals.

Each and every Accountant in that room has a much higher propensity of achieving their dreams because they have committed to writing them down and coming up with a plan to achieve them. They are also held accountable to their plans through our coachingclub process.

So what is your Ferrari?

Spend some time working out what you want to achieve in your life. Write everything down. Let your mind run free. Be creative and remember all the things you wanted to achieve when you were younger. If you need some inspiration buy some magazines or lifestyle books. There is a plethora of books available on goal setting – go and absorb them and come up with a definitive list.

I am very goal orientated – diligently writing them down since I was 17. After years of goal setting I have worked out a number of personal systems that work for me. This system keeps me on track and focused on living the life I want to live.

  • My life mission and purpose – this is a statement like a company mission statement
  • My eulogy – I have a written statement that I want people to say about me after I am gone
  • My inspiration – I look for inspiration through magazines, TV programs and dreaming
  • My people – I only associate with positive, goal orientated, forward thinking people
  • My electronic goals – I type my goal list into an electronic file
  • My written goals – I physically write every goal into my special ‘dreams and ideas’ book
  • My dream board – I have a cork board where I stick pictures of what I want to achieve
  • My focus – I have broken my goals down to life, 3 years, 1 year and 90 days
  • My accountability – each month I meet with my mastermind buddies to keep me on track
  • My achievement – as I fulfill a goal I cross it off and put it in the achieved list

With all of my goals I follow the tried and tested S.M.A.R.T formula – with a twist.

Specific – the goal must be very specifically stated

Measurable – the goal must be able to measured somehow

Audacious – the goal must stretch you and excite you

Realistic – the goal must be realistic at the same time

Timebound – the goal must have a completion date on it

One of my favourite achievement models is: Decisions + Actions = Results

The model says that if you want a different result then make some different decisions and then follow through with the appropriate actions. Sounds simple enough. You set a result that you want to achieve, you decide what needs to happen or change and then you go about implementing the action.

Here is what typically happens – YOU DON’T IMPLEMENT!

Why is that? When all the planning took place, the painstaking process of decision making and then you don’t follow through. The ‘action’ part is definitely the tough part and most people do get distracted during the implementation process.

Here’s my theory as to why the action bit doesn’t happen. Action does not happen because the result you wanted to achieve was not big enough or inspiring enough to motivate you into action.

If you had bigger, more audacious goals you will be more motivated to implement.

A correctly structured Accounting business that is run well is a vehicle to achieve whatever result you want to achieve in your life. As one of our coachingclub members said to me one day ‘I know of a 4 partner firm in Asia where one of the partners is a billionaire through the Accounting firm’.

You have the right business vehicle. The question is do you have the motivation. Do you have the dreams and goals to drive you forward?

This is an excerpt from my new book “Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up” – why they don’t and what to do about it.

© Nixon Advantage – all rights reserved

I have decided to give away some of the content of my new book “Accounting Practices Don’t Add Up” – why they don’t and what to do about it. The book will be available for purchase from my main site a few days time.

Here is an excerpt from chapter 5.

Chapter 5 – Put your own oxygen mask on first

No doubt you have been on an airplane and endured the mandatory safety briefing. Every safety briefing has the ‘oxygen mask’ discussion. On very flight I have ever been on they say (or infer) the same thing: ‘make sure you put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others’.

What they are saying is that if you are calm, relaxed and in control you can help others survive. The same applies to the Accounting business. If you (as the advisor) are healthy, fit, relaxed, in control, successful and wealthy then you can help others to be the same.

In this chapter I am going to explore what it means to be wealthy and what you need to do to look after yourself – first!

Real wealth

If you ask people about the definition of wealth most will say either: Lots of money, lots of free time, great health or enjoyable relationships.

Is it one of those or all of those?

Some people think being wealthy is just having a lot of money. Many people who have a lot of money do not have the free time to enjoy it and often they are overweight and unhealthy.

Others think that real wealth is having loads of free time. Unfortunately most people with a lot of free time do not have very much money – although they do have the time to be healthy and work on relationships.

Seeing this is an ‘opinion based book’ and it’s my opinion my definition of being wealthy is:

“To do what you want, when you want, with whom you want in a manner that you want”

This week I was at the ‘Growth Summit’ in Sydney. I got to spend some time with arguably the best business writer over the last 30 years. Tom Peters. His first book “In Search of Excellence” sold 3 million copies in the first 4 years. Now on book 16 and 2500 speeches he is still going strong at 68.

What’s interesting about Tom is he doesn’t have any original ideas. He will tell you he does not either. All he does all day is tell stories to make a point. He is telling example after example after fact after fact on what is going on in the world – and all the stupid management decisions that are made.

It was a fascinating way to spend a day. He is also moving to NZ soon as well. My favourite quote:

“The bottleneck is at the top of the bottle”

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In another life I was the new GM of a company that just came out of a failed merger. The company had a loss of $340K versus profit the year prior of $1M. It had debt of $1.1M versus year prior of cash in bank. It had revenue of $3.4M versus $4.5M the year prior. A Complete mess.

My job was to turn it around and make it work. The upshot of 15 months work was:

  1. Profit went from $340K loss to $2.5M profit
  2. Revenue went from $3.4M to $6.7M
  3. Debt paid back in full
  4. Business got sold for many millions of dollars

Here’s what I did to turn it around.

  1. The general manager (me) was on very attractive incentive program
  2. We contained the cash outflow – put the cheque book in the draw
  3. all expenses scrutinised and reduced
  4. strict budget & cashflow – measured daily then weekly
  5. worked out what to stop doing, continue doing & start doing
  6. writing project plan of 149 initiatives – shared responsibility
  7. relocated the business – a breakthrough happens after a breakwith!
  8. hired above average people – total team of 17 FTE’s
  9. position descriptions, performance standards & career development process implemented
  10. non financial incentive programs implemented
  11. created a fun and success driven environment – people wanted to come to work
  12. involved team on decisions and shared all of the KPI’s
  13. increased training budget to 7.5% of salaries
  14. set up management structure with weekly “soft” & “hard” reporting
  15. hired a sales team with clear focus – sell
  16. invested heavily in IT to reduce downtime and speed up processes
  17. wrote extensive systems on “the way we do it here”
  18. increased client numbers by 11% with marketing initiatives
  19. increased price of one major product line by 36%
  20. created new product – responsible for $1m rev & $400k profit

I learned that a successful turnaround can happen if you have a plan, your are focussed, disciplined and the work you do is in the right area.

Recently a number of accounting firms have been telling us that they will run out of work this year. This is a good thing. So that you can fill the capacity you should do this with every client on every job – every year.

When you are doing the work for the client have your Accountants (or you) answer these 5 questions about the job they are working on:

1. What ideas do you have to help this client grow revenue or wealth?

2. What ideas do you have to help this client increase their profit?

3. What ideas do you have to help this client understand and improve their cashflow?

4. What ideas do you have to help this client protect their assets?

5. What ides do you have to help this client with succession planning or selling their business?

Add these 5 questions to your reveiw process, train your accountants what to look for, come up with some ideas and then take the ideas to every client. I did this exercise last week with a group of accountants (they brought 15 random client files to the training) and everyone of them (teams of 3) came up with ideas that once implemented would:

A) Get a great result for the client

B) Increase the average fee per client by about 50%

Think about your clients when doing the work – and then take the ideas to the client.

If that fails then ask every existing client for a referral.