In recent years, many advisors have faced the pressures of being all things to all clients around the clock. But not Jeannie Savage. Through an expanded list of service offerings and a deep reliance on both tech and her team, she’s built a bespoke practice in Cloud 9 Strategic – and her dream lifestyle to boot.
A few years ago, Jeannie Savage was at a local community salsa class when her dance partner inquired about what she did for a living. She said she was a bookkeeper. ‘Oh,’ he replied in a dull tone before asking if she enjoyed her work. Jeannie’s response? “I love my job because it lets me dance, travel and do all the things that set my soul on fire.”
Throughout her 13 years as a founder and CEO, Jeannie has built – by her own definition – a lifestyle practice in Cloud 9 Strategic. She explains, “Being time-rich is really important to me. My team has the ability (and empowerment) to take care of everything so that I don’t need to be glued to the wheel.” But don’t be fooled by Jeannie’s hands-off leadership approach.
Alongside other industry leaders, she’s tapping into a growing client demand for expanded services, like HR advisory – something 30 percent of practices are offering today, according to Xero’s new State of the industry report. As a result, this is attracting ambitious businesses with huge growth potential – creating more opportunities for Jeannie to support her clients, and expand her empire along the way.
Setting client expectations from the outset
When she’s not globetrotting, Jeannie’s Gold Coast home doubles as an office. And this work-from-anywhere ethos extends to her team, who operate remotely from Australia and the Philippines. They manage the day-to-day operations while Jeannie covers the high-level business strategy and client engagements.
“If I can’t see the potential to turn a prospective client into a raving fan, it’s not the right fit. Cloud 9 Strategic has strict trading terms; we’re paid upfront and charge a premium because we only offer a platinum package of standard and value-add services. Those who meet our terms are the ones who truly care about what we do,” says Jeannie.
At a time when the majority (79 percent) of practices say most or some of their clients are leaning on them for more support than ever, Jeannie’s setting clear expectations – of the value she provides to her clients and the commitments she expects of them in return.
“There’s nothing more important than keeping a promise to your client, and it all comes down to managing capacity really tightly. If we need to, we’ll move to a wait list for prospective clients. I’ve put boundaries in place to protect and nurture our inner circle, including my team,” she adds.
Empowering small businesses with digital skills
Small businesses rely on organised and timely data to make smart financial decisions – which is especially critical in uncertain times. So, a key part of how Jeannie collaborates with clients is through technology. In fact, this way of working is included in Cloud 9 Strategic’s non-negotiable trading terms. She explains, “I’m not saying they have to be the best at tech, but they need to be willing to learn for us to work together successfully.”
The process begins with Jeannie assessing a new client’s business (and the personality types behind it) to identify any knowledge gaps. Then, she’ll create a training plan with clearly outlined processes on how to use a software or app in collaboration with her practice. “Even if there’s some initial hesitation, we remind our clients that we’re the experts; if they trust us and stick with the guide for at least three months, life will be breezy,” she says.
This reliance on tech – both from a client perspective and its automation potential for Cloud 9 Strategic – has helped Jeannie focus primarily on strategic advisory. She explains, “The more time we have to listen to our clients, the better we can help them. I truly believe strategic advisory will play a big role in the future of our industry; you just have to be prepared to adapt.”
With the right tech stack, in-demand service offerings, and a passion for adventure, Jeannie’s paving the way for the next generation of bookkeepers who are going their own way.
Jeannie’s tips for managing clients on your terms:
1. Innovate your service offerings
To meet growing client demand, practices are getting creative with the services they provide. So it’s worth considering your strategic advisory skillset and what problems you could help small businesses solve. This is where you’ll generate more revenue and build client relationships that last.
2. Use digital tools to collaborate with clients and work smarter, not harder
Lean on apps where possible to do more with less, and make sure the businesses you work with are on the same page. If they’re not, consider adding digital skills training to your list of offerings.
3. Make your trading terms work for you
When taking on new clients or renewing contracts with existing ones, it could be worth re-assessing your trading terms and service fees with inflationary pressures front of mind. This can be a hard transition, but it’s important to remember what value you’re offering clients alongside industry benchmarks to keep your practice competitive.
Head to our State of the industry page to download the full report today.