What to Do When You Don't Know Something

podcast Sep 26, 2022
when you don't know what to do



Hello, everyone! Today, I’m going to talk to you about what to do when you don't know what to do. This is a huge fear that people have. I think it's probably something that you experience more in the beginning, because as you go on to flex this new muscle, you will learn how to navigate this and it will become more and more natural for you. So if you're wondering what happens if somebody asks you a question and you don't know what the answer is, or what happens if you actually sign the client and then get to work and feel a little out of your depth, this is for you.
This is going to be geared mostly toward bookkeepers, but anybody can probably relate to needing a way to tackle when you don't know what to do. Let’s jump in!



What to Do When You Don't Know What To Do

The first step in learning when you don't know what to do is what to say. This is a very simple answer, actually, and you can write this down and stick this in your back pocket. When you don't know what to do or how to answer a question, you simply say, “I'm not sure, but let me look into that and I'll get back to you.”
It's that simple. No one is ever going to have all of the answers, and it’s all right to admit when you don't know what to do. When you remove the pressure from yourself to always know, it gets so much easier. I bet there are so many times when you ask people questions and you hope that they have the answer, but if they don't have the answer, you're not judging them, are you?
It’s so important to verbally acknowledge when you don't know what to do so that you don't mislead someone by accident. I think the fear of coming across a situation when you don't know what to do is that you're going to sound stupid when you don’t have an answer, but the biggest way to actually make yourself sound stupid is to give an answer that sounds good in the moment, but a week down the line, it turns out that you were wrong about what you said. That can hurt the people you're giving wrong information to, and it can also hurt your reputation. Instead, when you don't know what to do, you say, “I'm not sure. I think it's whatever, but let me look that up and get back to you.” Or, “I'm not sure. That's a good question. Let me look that up and get back to you.” Deflecting with a compliment when you don't know what to do by telling them it’s a good question can never hurt!
Remember, when you don't know what to do, it’s all right to deflect. If you're on a sales call or something like that, you don't have to have the answer on the fly. You can always circle back when you don't know what to do. This way, if you're on a sales call with a client and they're not going to work out anyway, you don't have to go down this whole long rabbit hole of figuring out the complicated answer to their complicated question just to make yourself sound good when they're not going to work with you anyway. And by the way, they're not going to not work with you because you didn't know an answer on the fly.
And if they do make that call, you likely don’t want to work with them anyway.

Legal Matters

So that is what to do when you're having conversations and have to handle that in person. Just write the question down, keep the conversation moving, then look it up later. If you look it up and it's outside of your zone, that’s okay to say that too: “That question would be better suited for a lawyer.” There are so many questions that accountants and bookkeepers get asked that are actually legal. And you shouldn't try to become a lawyer in that moment. You should let them know that that area is actually under law, so they should go and ask a lawyer or look up a legal resource for that, because that's actually not an accounting or bookkeeping question It could also be a tax preparer question.

This WILL Happen—And That’s Okay

I want to paint this picture with full transparency: if you start a bookkeeping business, you will have many times where you have to walk through a unique circumstance with your client. It could be historic data. It could be a new platform that you've never been on before. It could be a new platform no one's ever been on before. New platforms are coming up all of the time; they could be how your client is getting paid. They could be new banks. None of it is easy all the time, but this is what I love about bookkeeping: it’s not always easy, but it is simple. You’ll have those moments in the beginning where you're learning something new, but once you’ve learned it, you have a new notch on your belt.


How to Adapt

So, maybe you have to hop into a new platform for the first time and figure out what's happening and then move on. What do you do in those situations? First, know that it's going to happen, especially in an ever-evolving technological landscape, which has pros and cons. It’s such a good thing for us as bookkeepers that there's so much amazing technology, but that does come with having to learn how to navigate different platforms.
The greatest thing that you can do as a bookkeeper when it comes to that is to deeply understand what the transactions are. You want to know how this is supposed to work so that you can step back from the platform and say, “Okay, what's happening here?” So if we're talking billing and invoicing, at the end of the day, what we need to get into the software is sales expenses.
Was there sales tax included? Was there shipping included? What bank account did it go to and how is that data flowing? How do we want it to flow? Do we want to integrate it? Do we want to not integrate it? Do we want to book it with journal entries? How do we want to handle that?
There are a bunch of different ways that it can be handled. What you want to be able to do, though, is not just learn that one thing, but learn what's happening behind the scenes. So what do you do when you find yourself in these situations where you haven't encountered this thing before? If you have the ability to take the step back and learn the program and work yourself through it, I think giving yourself just a little bit of grace in that process and reminding yourself that you're putting time up front for long-term future gains is going to help you. Make sure you’re remembering that each time you stumble through something new for the first time, even if it's going to be in a different platform, when you take on a new client who maybe has a new CRM and it's not the same CRM, working through how you navigated that with one CRM is going to make it much easier for you to tackle on the next CRM.

How LIBBY Can Help When You Don't Know What to Do

Beyond that, a big fear that people have when starting out is that they don't want to do this alone. You want to be able to ask somebody for help when you don't know what to do. You don't want to be banging your head against the keyboard at 3:00 AM alone and have nowhere to turn the next day, and you don't want to have to refund customers if you can't figure it out quickly enough. And that's really what I created my program Life By The Books (or LIBBY) for.
In Life by The Books, part of the support that you have in the monthly coaching and the community element is that you have one-on-one Voxer access to me. You also have a group Voxer, where you can have access to members of the community that want to be in that active group. It is optional, so if the notifications are bothering you, you don't have to be in there, but it's really valuable, especially when you don't know what to do.
We also have a community platform, which is Circle, where you can go and ask these technical questions when you don't know what to do for someone. Sometimes just by the nature of the beast, my bookkeeper coaching clients are taking on bookkeeping clients who are in platforms I haven't worked in yet. Even so, if this happens with you, I can walk you through the thought process and what things you need to check when you don't know what to do, and it's insanely valuable to have that back pocket access and be able to ask me and get a response in a relatively short timeframe. I will likely ask you a lot of questions, and you will then be able to see the questions that I'm asking and follow my thought process to help yourself navigate through those questions when you don't know what to do.
So Life By The Books offers many resources there, and that's where you have that access to coaching and a community where you can crowdsource answers. So if it's something that I haven’t personally done, you can kick it out into the group Voxer or into Circle and ask if anybody has ever come across this. I'm not going to say that we always get an answer, but a lot of time you get very valuable insight there, and it's amazing.



Don’t Be Afraid of Not Knowing

So there you have it: what to do when you don't know what to do. It feels scary in the moment, but it’s truly not a difficult thing to tackle, and you never have to feel bad for needing to look into something a bit more before answering confidently. And if you’re struggling to find those answers on your own, there’s a community waiting for you in Life by The Books to help you get there!
If you're looking for more tips for bookkeeping, insight on how to become a bookkeeper, and how to say hello to a more confident business model, enroll in Become A Bookkeeper (BABs). 
Or to learn more about growing your bookkeeping business and hiring a team, enroll in Life By The Books™ (Libby).
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