Firm Development

Breaking the Poverty Mindset

Breaking the Poverty Mindset

Does someone close to you have a poverty mindset? Do they suffer from a lack mentality? How would you know if they did, and how can you help them?

I had the good fortune to be present at a Woodard Group meeting in San Jose recently. The amazing Caleb Jenkins gave an inspiring presentation about SALT (Shared Accountability, Lending, and Teaching). Caleb discussed the great work being done to empower impoverished people through micro loans, savings programs, and education.

One of the important things Caleb emphasized was the chronic poverty mindset. He talked about the difference between a critical poverty situation, such as following a natural disaster, in contrast to chronic, long-term poverty. With a critical state of emergency, it makes sense to provide reactive aid, sending in food, money, and other resources to provide immediate relief. However, providing reactive relief does not help in a chronic situation. It can actually make matters much worse in the long run.

This got me thinking about the work that I have been doing over the years with small businesses. It used to be that a business owner would come to me seeking relief from what they saw as an immediate problem. We quickly learned that the problems ran more deeply than the day-to-day bookkeeping tasks.

We were dealing with a chronic poverty mindset.

When we provide reactive relief to a chronic situation, it keeps the power in our hands instead of empowering the people we are trying to help. The focus remains on our resources and what we can bring to the table, rather than their resources and strengths. In the end, it is dis-empowering. Instead of helping them help themselves, we have now created a situation where they cannot continue without us.

In order to truly help people in chronic poverty mindset situations, we need to shift our focus from being reactive to being proactive. Rather than providing relief, we need to provide tools for them to develop their strengths and resources. We need to encourage people to delegate responsibilities, rather than abdicating control. By taking a servant-leadership role, we empower them to lead and make educated decisions for themselves.

Unfortunately, chronic situations are much more common than critical ones.

We have become desensitized to the chronic issues around us. Instead we see the critical symptoms of chronic problems. A small business that needs a brief influx of cash in order to make payroll is the equivalent of the high-school girl who fainted in class because she hasn’t eaten today. Getting food in her now may get her back into class, but it is a poor bandage for the eating disorder that is not being addressed.

Many of these chronic issues are rooted in a poverty mindset. Relief is not going to bring long term success to the business that cannot get ahead, the impoverished community that does not have the resources to survive, or the teens struggling with self worth and finding where they fit. The core issue is that the poorest people think they cannot help themselves. They feel ashamed, inferior, and powerless, and getting a handout can often make them feel worse.

In order to truly help others, we need to empower them. We need to bring them hope and encouragement, we need to listen for their deeper needs, and we need to offer our compassion, understanding, and vulnerability first. By showing them that we all have our struggles and difficult emotions surrounding them, we can develop more potent connections and begin to close the gap that has them feeling so weak and alone.

Sometimes we need someone else to see the strength within us before we can see it in ourselves.

In business, we often feel under-qualified to assist our clients with deeper mindset issues. With time and practice I learned that we do not need to have a degree in psychology to show compassion to another human. Too often we hide our deeper selves behind a wall of professionalism, not wanting the relationship to get too personal. As a result, we miss the opportunity for real connection, learning, and growth on both sides. That is also rooted in a poverty mindset. We can choose another way today.

By empowering others, we help everyone around us, and they help us in turn. Just as Caleb Jenkins is working to bring hope and strength to people in impoverished areas, we can work to help each other and our local communities.

Together we can break out of our poverty mindsets and live in abundance.

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Archives, Firm Development

What it means to be an ICB Bookkeeper

This is an exciting time to be a bookkeeper. With the advances of software and technology, the very definition of the word "bookkeeper" has changed, and we get to be on the cutting edge of these changes. In this Global Bookkeeping Week, I am so proud to be part of such a brilliant, dynamic community of professionals.

Read the whole article here:

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Contributions, Firm Development

Freedom is Accountability – Part Two

Freedom is Accountability

Part Two

Do you choose Accountability or Compliance?

This is Part Two of this article series on Accountability and Freedom. Click here to read Part One. You don’t want to miss the beginning of this story.

Joe Woodard says, “Confrontation is a positive interaction with a momentary negative emotional response.” While that definition has dramatically changed the way that I approach difficult conversations in a very good way, I have found that the length of the momentary negative emotional response can vary widely depending on who I am interacting with.

In C’s case, it lasted quite a while. I confronted C with her freedom, trying to show her that her choices had led her to where she is, and that she had another choice to make. She could either choose to learn and grow with the opportunities being presented, or she could choose not to.

When she skipped the class that was intended to be the equivalent of her final exam for her internship, I offered her an alternate assignment. I challenged her to write about what she had learned from her experiences in her internship with us. She asked about the required length of the essay, and I told her that it didn’t matter. What was important was that she actually put effort into her self-reflection and grow. I suggested that she go as deep as she could with it, and to see if she could find ways to take herself to the next level. She agreed to the writing assignment over choosing to leave the internship, and she put on airs that she was in agreement and that everything was fine.

Again, she was lying.

When C emailed me her 12 page essay a few days later, it came with an email notifying me that she had completed the required number of hours for her internship and informing me that she would not be fulfilling her commitment to come in for wrap-up and goodbyes.

The entire paper was a personal attack on me. She called me “sadist”, herself a “whore”, and even went so far as to say that the assignment itself was “rape.” I realized in that moment that these words were not coming from a person who was mentally whole. The negative emotions she must have felt were tangible in her writing. This was not coming from a place of wellness. She had chosen slavery.

I promptly forwarded the essay to C’s supervising professor at her university to let him decide the outcome of her pass/fail grade. I wanted to be done with this destructive influence I had allowed into my life.

Nonetheless, the stabs she had taken at me hurt. Part of me could see the unfortunate trap she had woven for herself. I knew that her words about me weren’t true, and I pitied her for the lies she bound herself in.

Part of me got lost in my own doubts.

The #1 fear of every entrepreneur is the fear of being called out as a fake. She knew that, as I had taught her about Impostor Syndrome, and she took advantage of it. She said the things that she knew would hurt the most.

What hurt even more was the betrayal of trust. Not once did she thank us for being her hosts, and she didn’t even acknowledge how much damage she had done. She abused our generosity and hospitality, taking advantage of us in our own home. I felt like I had failed in my commitment to her as mentor, and I allowed these doubts to gnaw at me.

It took me several months to stop taking her words and actions personally. Taking Ed Kless’s webinar on The Top Ten Business Myths re-framed the whole situation. My leadership skills were actually serving me very well, but we cannot save everyone. We can only reach out so far before we, too, fall out of the boat. I confronted C with her freedom by offering her that assignment, and C adamantly chose slavery through compliance. She had many other options available to her, including collaborating on another solution or choosing to leave. It seems that she thought rebellion in compliance gave her some moral high ground. She chose to make everyone around her an oppressor, and never took responsibility for the outcomes of the choices she had made.

As a result, my team made a fantastic new policy to add to our team manual:

No Fakes or Slaves Allowed.

This went into our Standards of Conduct section, where we list intolerable offenses that may result in immediate termination. In our book, this kind of behavior is right up there between theft and violence. Even in our small, employee-owned business model, it’s important to have clarity on where our hard boundaries are. C pointed out a big hole in the fabric of our corporate culture. Thanks to Ed Kless, we have now filled it with Truth and Freedom. What’s more, we have the tools to explain why it is important so that people can make an educated choice. C was not a good fit for us, and now we know how to see that trait in the future.

Accountability and Freedom Prevail.

Perhaps if I had this understanding and these tools when C was with us, I could have used them to help her redirect the situation. Maybe we could have developed an understanding that would bring her more happiness and success. Perhaps not. In the end, it is not my job to teach anyone anything, only to present opportunities to learn. Whether they choose to take those opportunities is up to them. These same ideas go hand in hand with the choices we need to make to break the poverty mindset.

I know now that I don’t need to continue to engage with people who are not interested in learning and growing. I know that freedom is accountability and accountability is freedom. That is how I am able to do big things with my life. I help others, and I endeavor to make the world a better place. I choose the company of others like me.

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Firm Development

Freedom is Accountability – Part One

Freedom is Accountability

Part One

Kris Kristofferson was wrong. Freedom is not just another word for nothing left to lose. That is, unless what you have to lose are your fears and inhibitions. Freedom is Accountability.

A handful of months ago (circa 2015) my accounting firm was contacted by a woman asking for an opportunity to do an internship with us. For the sake of anonymity, we’re going to call her C. We had a phone interview with C, getting deep into our corporate culture, vision, and other important discussions the same way that we would with any new member of our team. C sounded very excited to dive in and learn from us.

It turned out that she was lying.

We have had interns in the past. It is a fun chance to help someone get into the profession on the right foot. We don’t gain anything from having interns except for the opportunity to learn and grow together. It is similar to hosting an exchange student in our home. It is a charitable act on our part, as we invest a great deal of time, energy, and resources. The reward is that it’s supposed to feel good. We volunteer to make the world a better place, bringing our industry to the next level. It never occurred to us that someone would abuse our hospitality in that situation.

C spent two full months with us, and in that time there were only a few times that she showed her true colors. The first was early on when there was a confrontation over her lack of follow-through on an assignment. Then it did not come up again until the very end, when she told us that she had no interest in learning anything from us. It turned out that she was only there because she needed the internship to finish the degree it had taken her 8 years to complete. She had been actively lying about her intentions and interests the entire time. She had been telling us what she thought we wanted to hear so that she could get a passing grade and be on her way. It almost worked.


As C was finishing her final week with us, her self-destructive habits that had defeated her in obtaining her degree up to that point firmly took hold again. She chose to skip out on an opportunity to participate in a full day intensive mastermind course that I was teaching. I was seeing this activity as the equivalent to her final exam for the internship. It was a chance to work with other business owners on a deep, vulnerable, human level to focus on making leaps and bounds of personal and professional growth. It was the culmination of the learning opportunity we had offered, and she chose not to show up.

In the end, she wasn’t there because she wasn’t meant to be. She wasn’t ready for growth of any kind, and she would have detracted from the experience for those present. It was a great class, and she really missed out.

Her loss.

With the choice to skip this seminar, her carefully crafted veneer was cracked. I could see that there were big things that she wasn’t bringing to the table with us. I asked her about it, and the truth started to come out. It came out with venom. C told me that she was only here to finish her degree. She admitted that she hated her teachers and thought they were worthless. This was a big part of the reason why school had taken her 8 years. She also told me that I was a fake who had nothing of value to offer her.

Hindsight being what it is, I realize now that there was probably nothing I could do to help her. She told me straight out that she believed that authority figures were inherently evil, and that she saw me in a position of authority. My big mistake was that I felt like I had a responsibility to her, despite the fact that she had already fully negated the fundamental values of our commitments to each other. Rather than just booting her out the door, I gave her a choice. This choice led to several months of hard lessons and soul searching. Then I finally found the lessons that I needed from C.

I found the missing piece… and the missing peace.

A couple of weeks ago I was taking a webinar on The Top 10 Business Myths, presented by Ed Kless through CPA Academy. It was a fantastic webinar. If you are not already familiar with Ed Kless and Ron Baker, be sure to check out The Soul of The Enterprise. It just so happened that my schedule lined up for me to take this webinar at over 300 miles per hour while soaring 30,000 feet above the ground. The wi-fi is not the greatest under those circumstances, especially while streaming a live webinar. The gems I collected between outages were so good, I had to follow up with Ed personally afterward to make sure I wasn’t missing anything.

While all ten of Ed’s myths were fantastic, there was one myth that rose above the rest for me. It was that “Leadership is about changing others behavior.”  Ed presented the idea that freedom and accountability are the same thing. In order to be accountable, you must be free. In order to be free, you must be accountable.

“Leadership is confronting people with their freedom.”

When I heard those words come through my earbuds on the airplane, it was like a haze parting in my mind. Later, I asked Ed for more information about these ideas. He advised me to look up Peter Block’s book Freedom and Accountability at Work.

Ed took these ideas a step further, saying, “Compliance is a choice to be in slavery.”

If you don’t have freedom, you are a slave. We cannot get people to be accountable. We must choose it of our own free will. The difference between accountability and compliance is one of mindset.

Ed referred to Viktor Frankl’s quote from his book A Man’s Search for Meaning, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

When I think of this, I picture William Wallace screaming “Freedom!” right before he dies at the end of Braveheart. No one can take away our ability to decide how we feel about the situation we are in. That choice is up to each of us. Who do you want to be? What mindset do you want to spend your life in?

Do you choose Freedom or Slavery?

...continue reading Part Two here...

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Firm Development

The Power of the Un-Sell

The Power of the Un-Sell

Curating the Right Clients

We have all heard of tons of sales techniques over the years. We may have used some of them, and we may have had some of them used on us. Sometimes those conversations are easy, as the buyer has already decided what they want. Often there is more discussion needed in order to come to a mutually satisfying agreement, and these conversations can be uncomfortable to both sides. In the end, the point of sales is generally the same: close the deal. Get the buyer to agree to give the seller money for goods or services.

At Priestess Of Profits, we’ve learned to go about sales in a very different way, and we are really enjoying it.

We call it the “un-sell.”

We have decided that having the right clients is much more important than closing a deal. Rather than entering an initial consultation appointment with the intention of making sure we get a contract signed, we set the intention to make sure that the relationship is going to be a good fit for both sides. We allow room for hope and excitement for the potential opportunity, but we do not get attached to a particular outcome.

Transparency is key when using the un-sell technique. We are completely honest about wanting to make sure that they have the best fit for their needs, even if that is not with us. There is no blame or fault in not being a fit. We collaboratively work with the client to see if there may be any areas in which our needs are not in alignment, which is a great learning experience for both sides.

If it is going to turn out that a client is not a good fit, it’s much better for both sides if we learn that as early on as possible, before we have invested time, money, and energy into developing the infrastructure of our working relationship.

The un-sell is an active approach, not a passive one.

In this initial meeting, we like to joke about “lighting all the fuses” on the potential bombs that could blow up later. We see what “pops” early on, rather than forcing something to work that does not feel natural. We also triage for compatibility in our onboarding questionnaire, before ever scheduling the appointment. Nonetheless, some nuances of personality and more specific questions are best assessed in a personal interaction.

Over the course of the un-sell conversation, generally the client is so impressed with our integrity and honest approach, they are looking for ways that they can shift their systems to make our model a better fit for them. The un-sell reverses the usual flow of the conversation to one where the client is courting us for our services, rather than having us courting them for their money. The lack of pressure from us creates a slight vacuum, and the client naturally fills that vacuum.

Provided that it is a good fit, we then begin the discussion about timeline, pricing, and next steps. Those discussions are easy once the foundations of trust and mutually beneficial value have been established.

This leads to the deep, long-term relationships that we love.

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Client Relationships, Firm Development

Becoming a Firm of the Future

NOTE: This blog post was originally published in May of 2016 when I owned and operated Polymath, LLC:

A lot of my colleagues in the accounting profession have been asking me lately what the secret is to
Polymath's recent growth spurt. The answer is twofold:

  1. It's not a secret.
  2. There are so many things!

While I could (and have) talked for hours about each piece that has helped us along the way, there was a very key piece that made a huge difference one year ago. This piece turned out to be the jet fuel we needed to really launch our dreams. Check out my recent article published last week in Insightful Accountant to find out what it is!

Ingrid Edstrom Qualifications
Posted by Ingrid Edstrom in Accountant, Contributions, Firm Development, Firm of the Future