Welcome to Meet the Counselor, where we meet credit counselors and financial coaches certified by NACCC. Today we are featuring Gregg Heminger. Gregg is a credit counselor and accountant in Fairbanks, Alaska, where he runs Triple H Bookkeeping.
Have you been thinking about starting a financial counseling business?
Heminger shared insight, advice and his own experiences running a financial counseling business.
Consider Your Timeline
To start, Heminger plotted his goals. He says, “I ask people first and foremost – ‘What is your goal?’ Having an established goal is key to getting a business up and running.”
“We often discuss goals in terms of measurability, timeliness and viability,” Heminger adds, “It is imperative to give yourself plenty of lead time to prepare your initial move onto the stage, so to speak, to ensure you are prepared to begin receiving inquiries.”
- Measurability – Can you quantify your goals? How will you track your results and determine success?
- Timeliness – How much time do you need to devote to your goals? How long will tasks take? What does your calendar look like?
- Viability – Are your goals possible and how will you reach them? What tangible steps can you take to complete your goals?
But even with a set timeline and plan, unexpected issues can arise. Heminger recalls, “It is imperative to give yourself plenty of lead time to prepare your initial move onto the stage, so to speak, to ensure you are prepared to begin receiving inquiries. The biggest surprise here was the time and expense required for construction and deployment of a website. This was a cost that I was semi-prepared for yet it meant I had to substitute some ‘wants’ for ‘needs.'”
In other words, budding entrepreneurs may need to prioritize based on their budget.
What It Takes
People frequently ask Heminger what it takes to get started. He says, “Depending on the type of business and the timeline, I suggest beginning with what you have, setting aside funds to take the next steps, and allow things to happen without forcing the issue. In the credit counseling business for example, we work to help our clients avoid debt. I tell potential clients and anyone who asks, if you are not prepared financially to jump into the deep end, get comfortable in the kiddie pool until you can make the transition. You will learn so much along the way that you will be better prepared when the opportunity presents itself to step onto the bigger stage.”
Finding New Clients
Heminger has several strategies for attracting new clients, but is clear that it can be intimidating at first: “Finding new clients can be one of your biggest challenges, and initially may seem like a wave of disappointment that won’t recede,” he says.
But don’t lose hope! Heminger uses low-cost, data-driven online advertising to attract new clients: “There are a multitude of options available to anyone seeking to ‘do-it-yourself,'” he says, “Facebook or Google AdWords are two great examples – they are low-cost and simple enough that the average person can set something up with a little bit of effort and ingenuity.”
In addition, he suggests getting involved in the local community. “I would also recommend joining the local Chamber of Commerce and taking some marketing materials to meetings,” he says, “Our local chamber allows for new business owners to have a small spotlight to speak to the audience for a few minutes to introduce the business and your offerings.”
Heminger learned a lot when he started his business, and it wasn’t always easy. He faced the usual roadblocks of starting a business. Above all, he stresses the importance of preparation.
“The toughest lesson I learned is that until your ‘brand’ becomes more widely known, you are just another fish in the ocean. Being prepared to make a sales call to a potential client requires more than just showing up to the meeting. It is much like interviewing for a job with a company you know nothing about. Be interested and attentive to what is said and be ready. Practice!”
The Little Things Matter
Heminger notes that small details matter. This is especially true with the paperwork. He says, “Give consideration to setting up the little things. There are certain tasks that if not done properly can create problems. I am fortunate to have very close friends that are attorneys who steered me clear of the potholes that are in the road, yet are unseen until you hit them. Think through scheduling an hour to ask questions of an attorney to avoid problems with registering your business with the state or local government. Consulting a Certified Public Accountant is a solid idea as well.”
NACCC Note: Our credit counseling courses are taught by a licensed attorney who provides feedback and is available to answer questions.
In conclusion, Heminger stresses the importance of continuous learning and self-encouragement: “The final piece of advice I would give is to consume everything you can read on your subject and listen to what others in the same line of work are doing. You will learn what works and what does not work. This may sound counter-intuitive in today’s world, but if you know something that works, help someone else get started. You will be amazed at what begins to happen and how others will share their knowledge (and potentially the clients that they cannot serve). Be comfortable with small beginnings and celebrate everything. You will feel so much better as you move forward.”