Pam Prior – Book Journeys Author Interview Transcript – Mar. 16, 2017

Book Journeys Author Interview – Mar. 16, 2017

 

Jenn McRobbie with Pam Prior, author of Your First CFO: The Accounting Cure for Small Business Owners.

 

“It doesn’t have to be a horrible jump off a cliff, it’s more like a gentle ride down a hill.” ~Pam Prior

 

Jenn:

Hello, everyone! Welcome to another episode of Book Journeys Radio! Every wo – week on Book Journeys Radio, we speak to accomplished authors who have gone from just having an idea for a book to a finished book who are out making a difference in the world. And today’s author is unique, in that the book that she wrote is – well, we hired her before she even wrote her book. And – and it fits so perfectly, that I just – I don’t even know that I even have the words for it, so let me just introduce you first to Pam Prior. Welcome, Pam!

 

Pam:

Thank you so much, Jennifer, great to be here.

 

Jenn:

Oh, I’m so happy you’re here. Pam’s book, for everyone listening, is titled Your First CFO: The Accounting Cure for Small Business. And, interestingly enough, Pam was hired to be the Author Incubator’s first CFO before she even wrote this book, right?

 

Pam:

That’s exa – that’s exactly true, it was during the process of writing this book when I mapped out who my ideal reader would be, that the president of your company looked at it and said, “Oh, my God, that’s me, can I hire you?”

 

Jenn:

See, so, Pam here underscores the whole idea that it is entirely possible to make money on your book before you even write it.

 

Pam:

There you go. There you go. That – that is true.

 

Jenn:

Right? You’re our poster child for that, Pam, sorry, you’re – you’re stuck with that.

 

Pam:

That’s good. I don’t know how it will look on a poster, but I’m … glad for the ….

 

Jenn:

Nice. Well, normally, when we start the show, I ask our authors to just tell the listeners a little bit about their book and who it’s for.

 

Pam:

… I’m glad to. Your First CFO was written for a client base that I’ve had historically, and that I’ve noticed really exists out there even more than I thought. I had been a referral-based business doing CFO work for businesses that range, quite frankly, in size from pre-funding start-up, up to a hundred million dollars in size.

 

Jenn:

Wow.

 

Pam:

And I had – long before I started this – not long before, but before I started this, I’d been in industry a long time, in various accounting roles in Fortune 50 companies, in regional companies ranging from pharmaceuticals to chemicals to baking cakes to transportation and logistics, so I got a really widespread look at a lot of different operations and I found that that allowed me to relate to business owners of smaller businesses, which I’m targeting now, in the million to ten million dollar range who probably haven’t had the – the punch of a CFO yet, but they really need it, but they need it in bite sizes that – that aren’t gonna choke them. And they need it in English. ….

 

Jenn:

That would be preferable, yes?

 

Pam:

Exactly. … I … specialize in … translating the accounting and finance into English, and that’s what this book does. It says here are – … let’s just take a primer, not a textbook but just a story about the things that will prove to you that finance and accounting c – can become a real value add to your business instead of that pile of reports you wanna shove in the drawer every month, because you know you need to read it, but it scares you.

 

Jenn:

Well, I think, traditionally, entrepreneurs and CEO’s and … presidents, they’re – they’re out, obviously, to make money, but they’re scared of what that means, right?

 

Pam:

Yes. I – I think that’s true, and there’s – not only scared, necessarily, of what it m – not scared, necessarily of what it means, but they’re doubting their own – first of all, this group of people that I call entrepreneurs are an incredibly bright group of people.

 

Jenn:

Yeah. Yes.

 

Pam:

So, their gut has lead them really well to the point where they are.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Pam:

…. All of their mistakes, all of their learnings, all of their successes, they’ve funneled into this power package that is – is not a stupid person, by any stretch. But they didn’t sign up for an accounting degree, and yet, the world … looks at them, cocks their head and says, … “You don’t understand your financials?” or “You don’t have a CFO?” or whatever it might be. And it’s just not fair or right, because the – the – … a lot of times, very well-intended and very good bookkeepers and accountants are keeping those books for the purposes of filing taxes. And what I’m out to prove in the world is that we can capture the information from that work and make an incredibly valuable – in English – to the business owner in a way that they think about their business. So, they’ve already got it figured out in their head, and there’s this dissonance between what they’re thinking about in their head and what they’re seeing on this … usually very generic template that’s called their accounting reports, and it’s easier just to shove it in the drawer and go, “My gut’s led me this far.” And my proposition is that, you’re gut’s probably right, but let’s validate it w – in a way that’s easy for you to stomach and not … let a m – minor in accounting.

 

Jenn:

I love that your whole focus is meeting people where they are.

 

Pam:

Right.

 

Jenn:

Because I think, often, when we take in – these are all generalizations, but … generally people fall into two categories, right? They’re words people or numbers people?

 

Pam:

True.

 

Jenn:

And when words people are confronted with numbers, they want to run away. But what you’re saying is, smart word people should know how to manage their numbers!

 

Pam:

Right. But in a way that makes sense to word people. … – a little further.

 

Jenn:

Correct, now I – I love that! So, I find this in – this conversation interesting, because I know, while you were writing your book – ‘cause I have some insight on Pam, listeners, that … – I know that, while you were writing your book, you had a few moments where you thought, “Oh! I – I don’t deal in words, I deal in numbers.” So, how did you overcome this – this idea that you’re more of a numbers gal, as opposed to a words gal?

 

Pam:

Yeah, that – that’s a great question, and actually I think a real tribute to the Author Incubator’s program, so just like I like to meet my clients where they are, the Author Incubator program met me where I was, so first of all, something that really did appeal to my numbers side is that the – the process is very organized, it’s very orderly. And inside this magic that I don’t understand is this very orderly process, and I would … hang on to those hooks as I walked through it, because it was step by step by step by step, do this, do this, do this, and as I moved further along that process, the interest – that narrow process, which was … actions, all of a sudden, my – my view started to broaden to see the magic of the whole process in … a much more holistic view of it. So, … in a way, the process itself catered to my numbers style, the way that I approached it, but the nice thing about it is, everybody can approach it differently.

 

Jenn:

Right.

 

Pam:

But secondary to that, I’ll make a little bit of a confession here, because this speaks to exactly what you’re talking about. I wrote my first coupla chapters and sent them in to get reviewed and – and Angela, the – … came back and said, “Hey, these are great, you’re right on target, go for it.” And then, I started to write the next sections, which is really the meat of the book. And I found myself feeling I – like I was writing a textbook, it didn’t feel right to me, but I’m … “Oh, I gotta get this stuff out, this numbers stuff is just critical, and I gotta get it on the page.” And I sent it back in, and – and our very honest reader said, “You know what? This is crap!” And I said – she goes, “Go – go back and read your id – about your ideal reader, get reconnected to that person. And then try this again.” And then, she gave me four or five very cool hacks on how to get this very boring, dry information turned into a – an easy-to-read story that still conveyed the – the main points I needed to get across. And I sat back down with that ideal reader sitting right in front of me, I pictured her, and I – … I thought about her and I read it again and again and again, and then out it came. It just – those – those chapters poured out of me then, at that point in exactly the right way, so there was a transformation from a numbers person into a words person with some advice and counsel from – from Angela. … I should say.

 

Jenn:

So, … – right. I just think it’s so great to have an – and thank you for that story, because it really does tell us that – … I think there’s a lot of people sitting out there, and maybe some of them are listening, that think that they can’t write a book because of … right? “I’m too dumb.”

 

Pam:

‘Cause they’re an accountant.

 

Jenn:

Exactly. “I’m an accountant, I deal in numbers. I don’t whatever,” and I think the most important thing, in the way the Author Incubator works – and also how you treat your clients – is that, when you say to them, “I see you for who you are, I love who you are, now let’s expand that,” the – the possibilities are limit – unlimited.

 

Pam:

They – they really, really are, an – and to speak to that a little bit more … to your point, I had always thought, “I’m an accountant, I’m a really good accountant, and I deal well with my clients and my customers and I – I know how to make this … something that people can put up with and not hate, but I would really love to write a book.” And I’d been saying that, probably, for five years. And looking –

 

Jenn:

Oh, wow.

 

Pam:

When I reached into your program and saw, “Hey, twelve weeks will take you from idea to finished book,” I went, “Wow! Okay. Maybe I – naah, … no, I can’t, I can’t write a book.” And then – … I called and – and talked to Angela and realized, … “Yes, I can!” And should. That was the biggest thing, because in that conversation with – with Angela, I – I really widened my perspective on the fact that the book would become the service and that there’s a real need for it out there, which – which I didn’t realize. And – and so, once I put those two things together, all the energy was there, and I knew I’d do – and – and she also gave me a glimpse into how the program works, so I understood that – … “You don’t have to know how to do it. I will give you that in bite-sized pieces.” ….

 

Jenn:

Right. Which was exactly what you would do for your clients!

 

Pam:

I – … i – interestingly, yes, that’s exactly.

 

Jenn:

Interestingly. Yeah, that – that – and it makes so much sense to do that with what would … otherwise be considered a fairly technical topic. ….

 

Pam:

Yes. It would. It would. And most people are – so, I’d never do this speech after launch on accounting, because you lose the whole … much less the front of the room doing some sort of a handstand, so ….

 

Jenn:

Well, … in my previous life, I was an attorney, so I hear you. I can drone one and on and on and on and put a – I could put a stadium into sleep if I needed to.

 

Pam:

All true.

 

Jenn:

So, it’s easy to see why you picked your topic. … you’d been living it, you’d been seeing it. Did that make it harder or easier to condense it down into a book?

 

Pam:

I think i – it did both, … and then – that’s not a cop-out answer, it’s a real one. So, I think it made it harder, in that – in that first trial run of those back chapters that I did, right? So, … knowing and knowing this topic in so much depth, and it’s in my blood and it’s in my breathing, I just started writing instead of writing to my reader. But it made it easier because I had such a vivid picture of my client, because I’ve had so many of them, and there are some characteristics that are similar across the board, the anxiety, the “I’m lonely at the top,” “I want a friend in a foxhole.” “I need somebody I can trust who’s not necessarily in the organization but cares about it as much as I do, who aligns with my dreams, who can get my strategy, who can do all these things that – that what I think is what makes my – my offering much more – … that’s my special sauce,” right? It – in fact, I had a client yesterday say, … “Wow, this is where I’m – I’m getting my ‘friend in the foxhole’ moment from you, ‘cause I really needed this conversation.” Those are the kinda things that make me go, “Okay, this – that’s the relief I wanna hear in the voice of my clients, every single one of them.” So, having that very clear image of that made it very easy to write to them.

 

Jenn:

Oh,see, I – that’s – I think that’s so important, and I’m – I’m so glad to hear you say that, and – and to say it so clearly, Pam, because I think for writers, whether you’re numbers writers or words writers, it’s so easy to get lost in – in why you’re writing and who you’re writing for. … ultimately, like you said, this is all about service, right?

 

Pam:

…. Right.

 

Jenn:

So, who – who can you serve, who will best be served and how can you do that? Exactly right.

 

Pam:

Yeah, and I have such a clear image of the relief that comes across, and it’s happened with every client, there’s a point at which this relief comes across their face and their shoulders relax, where they know they’ve done the right thing in talking with me, and that they can now take some of these things – that some of these things have been a mystery and a little bit frightening, and something they wanted to avoid, they can still have everything they need from those things without having to be the one who tackles it themselves and that’s the moment I live for, is that – that look, I know I’ve done my job when I see that and feel that.

 

Jenn:

So, this is fascinating to me, Pam, because you know that the vast majority of our clients are life coaches, healers, … –

 

Pam:

Right!

 

Jenn:

– people that are … more woo-woo than accounting, generally.

 

Pam:

So true!

 

Jenn:

But listening to you talk, you are – you’re evaluating body language and energy and how people react to know that you are up – being of service to them!

 

Pam:

Right – … maybe that’s the title for the next book, Accounting Can be Woo-woo, Too. ….

 

Jenn:

You need to get on that now, … perfect.

 

Pam:

Don’t forget that ….

 

Jenn:

There’s a whole series about that.

 

Pam:

Yes. But, … there’s – there’s a good – there’s a great profession out there that meets the technical need, and I certainly have the technical background and the ability to integrate them into a seamless team for a CEO or a business owner. But what a CEO’s or business owner’s need is more than that. Once they’ve gotten their business to the point where … it’s … what we call a “grown up” business, and that’s what a lot of entrepreneurs are turning around and saying, especially in this day and age is, … “I started this thing out as a passion and made a few million bucks and oh, my God, I’ve got a business!” And I want them to be able to turn around and go, “Oh, that’s okay, ‘cause you’re somebody who can help me make sure I structure it properly from a financial standpoint,” and then, that, of course, dips into helping with operations and processes and those sort of things, but it – it’s – it’s the way – it – the real – the really important step, it – to becoming that … grown-up business once your baby has really been successful.

 

Jenn:

Well, then, I think that most business owners understand that – that accounting and – and finance, it really is a core part of your business that you need to develop, but they’re scared of it. And so, I think that’s why – maybe that’s why you’ve experienced what you’ve experienced, where you’ve said that you turned it into a language that business owners can understand.

 

Pam:

That’s exactly right. And that is spot on. Greek is what comes up, … “I just don’t know how to read this stuff, there’s way too much detail, and the one thing that I look at is in the wrong line item,” …. “I can never get what I want with these. Why can’t these be classified differently?” “This isn’t how I think about my business.” … and they get so frustrated, there’s such an amount of anger and frustration in that day that they get those reports, if they get them at all, on a monthly basis, that I wanna turn that around and have the kind of call I had with another client of mine this week who said, “That was great use of an hour for me, I know everything I need to know, it ties into my strategy, it ties into my forecast, … good. I’ll talk to you next month.” And that’s the call I’m looking to have, ….

 

Jenn:

So, it can really be that simple, when you can set someone on their path in an hour, and then they can get on about their business.

 

Pam:

Right. And they can know, comfortably, how much money they have to spend in the coming weeks, in the coming months, they can know how they’re doing versus their goals and objectives from a financial standpoint, they can talk confidently with other entrepreneurs about the terminology that really matters as opposed to all of the … eighty percent of the terms that just don’t matter to a business person. … so, there’s training and education on that kind of stuff, too, so that … they really present that image of successful business owners who are competing in an economy that, frankly, is … astounded at how successful they are. And it’s an important message that their grown-up businesses that are on, quite f – honestly, more ahead of the game than a lot of these … traditional industries are.

 

Jenn:

That makes sense, I – I – I can see that they’re probably – was, or maybe still is, a real divide between what we would consider … the big guys, … the GM’s, the DuPonts and – … any other business, really.

 

Pam:

Right. Right.

 

Jenn:

But what I’m hearing you say is that there really isn’t a fundamental difference in the way they’re structured or the way they speak, or at least there shouldn’t be.

 

Pam:

Right. Right. There’re minor terminology differences, but on the whole, everybody needs to understand what their profitability is by – … by the … – however they wanna think about it, whether it’s by customer, by region, by product, everybody wants to understand that, and everybody wants to understand their cash flow and understand why their bank balance is going up or down. And that’s really the core on which I base everything. Now, that is the … – the ten percent of the tip of the iceberg, with that ten percent of the tip of the iceberg is all a CEO needs to really know if they have competence in what’s underneath. And that’s my job, is to take the bottom of that iceberg and put it together with the top of the iceberg so that they can say, “Oh, yeah, this makes sense, I don’t have to doubt it, I don’t have to question it, it’s good numbers, that they’re where I think they need to be. They’re showing on the right lines, and I’m only looking at what I really need to look at to know if my key strategies are doing what I want ‘em to do this month, this quarter, this year.” And it really, truthfully, is that simple.

 

Jenn:

…. An – and it doesn’t feel that way until – o – or at least to me, … just a … – a layperson, it does not felt that simple to me until I hear you say that. So, maybe … –

 

Pam:

Right. … trying to convey with the book, and I – my real hope is that the book helps a lot of folks …. It also gives a lot of very practical information about how to talk to your existing accounting team to start getting things that you need to have that – that level of clarity, and – … it was funny, I had a client call the other day, a new client call, and said, “I just read your book and I’d like to – to talk with you,” so I went in and chatted with him and he said, “You need to know, you closed the sale when I read the book, and – and I don’t just want the book, I want you.” And I said, “Oh, well, I -” … actually, it wasn’t why I had gone, I had gone because I know – … heard of him through another contact, was gonna help him deal with an issue, and now he … for a long client, so – … so, the book really does, I think, is – is able to – and it’s funny, I sound surprised when I say that, right? ‘Cause I still revert back to that person, that accountant, who can’t write a book, but –

 

Jenn:

… ma’am.

 

Pam:

– … the truth is, I think the book is really helpful in and of itself as a stand-alone primer for a business owner, it’s an easy read, it’s a quick read but it – it gives – if they wanted to, they could take a list of things out of that to do, or have their accountant or bookkeeper do that would make life so much more bearable in the finance and accounting realm.

 

Jenn:

Yeah, … I was gonna ask you if you put anything in your book to help people with their – with their strategy to find their first CFO, but it sounds like you’ve definitely put that into the book.

 

Pam:

Yeah, there’s actually a chapter on – on what level of CFO professional do I need in my organization and it talks a little bit about the two variables that I think … combine to define that for you, and that is size and complexity. And I t – I expand on that a good bit in the book to – and then talk about – there’s a lot of different terminology out there for the accounting profession and all the different levels, an accountant could mean … five things. Controller could mean five things. CFO … is a term that’s used … shamefully loosely by a number of folks in my profession, quite frankly, so it’s – it’s one of those things that I thought needed a little bit of attention so that people could go, “Oh, yeah, … I am complex enough that it may be time to start hiring a CFO, well, what kind do I need?” So, it talks about the distinction between … project based … interim CFO, a part-time CFO and a full-time CFO, it even goes so far as to … help you figure out what kind of formula to look at to figure out what it might cost you.

 

Jenn:

Oh, great! Boy, that’s – that’s action packed from ….

 

Pam:

….

 

Jenn:

– a numbers girl like you, Pam.

 

Pam:

It’s a hot chapter.

 

Jenn:

It’s a hot chapter, that’s right. Well, I know, but our listeners may not, that you have been really expanding your presence and – and serving people more readily on Facebook, so tell me a little bit more about the Facebook live videos that you’ve been doing and – and why they’re important to you.

 

Pam:

Oh, I’m so excited to talk about this. It’s a new foray for me, and I’m really, really enjoying it, and I just – … dipping my toe in the water in Facebook, and what I – what I’ve done – I knew I was gonna set up a Facebook group for my clients. And I wanted to have content for that. And I realized, as I was doing this, that a very big chunk of the content probably is useful to people outside of the client base as well. So – and I can do it in snippets of live videos, so what I’m experimenting with right now, in fact I’m getting ready to do the fifth one tonight, is …

 

Jenn:

Excellent.

 

Pam:

– short videos, right? So, the three to seven minute videos, depending on the piece, and I picked … a three-week topic that is … “How you get – how and why it’s important for you to get your books as early as – your books closed as early as possible in the month.” So, the owner’s perspective, the earlier they can look at the numbers, the more quickly they can make decisions to react to the information that’s there, and then we structure it in a way, … that makes it … pop out to them what things are working, what things aren’t working. Once they know that, if they get their books on the third workday, or financial close on the third workday, they can react to it. A lot of times, what I’ve found in this group of – of entrepreneurs is, they’re getting their books when the bookkeeper gets them to them fifteen days later, twenty days later, sometimes into the … the end of the quarter, before they see their actual financials, so this – this set of videos is little snippets, it’s gonna be a fifteen to twenty step process for how to talk to your bookkeeper and tell them what you need them to do on your behalf. And proving, through my words, and them leading it, since I’m not working with them directly, or I’d be having this conversation with the bookkeeper, but it’s telling them how to have that conversation with the bookkeeper, for example, one of the little vignettes was, … the first two were, hey, books can be closed in two days. No excuse, no questions, you should be able to look at your books by the end of the third workday if you want to, now, that’s a target goal. My real feeling is that, if you have ‘em by the fifth workday, there’s still enough time to respond, right? And deal with it. So, … target the second and the third and … that this can be done, as I was on a team that did it for an international company with seven subsidiaries, multi-currencies before the Euro came in, and we were closed on the second workday. So, it can be done, but the second vignette talks about the fact that, the minute you talk to your bookkeeper or accountant about this, you may start to hear some objections, and here’s how you can – can deal with those objections. So, it covers … all of it, the emotion, the technical, it’s wrapped around this process of getting your information to you as quickly as possible.

 

Jenn:

So, Pam, where can people find you in these videos?

 

Pam:

So, there is a group on Facebook called “prioritiesconsultingLLC” that is an open group, and Priorities Group has a page as well, called “Priorities Group,” so either of those are getting copies of the vignettes, which I’m sharing on my … night and copying over to those spots.

 

Jenn:

Excellent. I – I never really thought that I would say this in my life, so this is a testament to you, but we’re drawing to a close, and I feel like I could continue talking about accounting for hours!

 

Pam:

I love it. Well, that’s the idea, so that – that’s … wonderful.

 

Jenn:

… you are magical with your – with the way that you translate accounting talk into something that … I actually wanna listen to and talk about!

 

Pam:

Well, I would just say, you’re a good interviewer, …. You brought it out ….

 

Jenn:

Well, … flattery will get you everywhere, Pam, so thank you.

 

Pam:

Excellent. ….

 

Jenn:

So, we have a minute left, and in that minute, I always ask our authors to close with one piece of advice. If there’s someone listening who feels like they just can’t make that jump to starting their book, what’s one piece of advice you could give them?

 

Pam:

I would say that you, like with everything else in the arena of running your business, there have been many, many, many things that you probably thought you couldn’t or shouldn’t do, or didn’t have the – the gumption to do or the – or the willingness to do, and yet, you’ve bitten the bullet and actually taken the actions to – to get into it. And what I suggest is a very gentle way to get from knowing you should to actually executing on it is to take a read of the book – and this isn’t self-fulfilling at all, I just think that it really will help you understand that it doesn’t have to be a horrible jump off a cliff, it’s more like a gentle ride down a hill.

 

Jenn:

Uh. That’s fantastic. Pam Prior, Your First CFO, run to Amazon, buy it, find her on Facebook, thank you so much for joining us, Pam.

 

Pam:

Jenn, thanks a lot. It’s – glad to be here.

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