From Clueless to Confident

When Helen Steemson opened Words for Breakfast in 2008, she was much like any other new small business owner. An award-winning copywriter, Helen was excellent at her trade, but clueless about business in general.

By her own account, she and her little agency ‘puttered’ along for a few years, before she started operating as the ‘proper’ business they are today. The agency specialises in writing for businesses, with a team of copywriters turning out everything from pitch documents and web copy to video scripts and blogs.

Even as Helen refined this business model, and won more and larger accounts, one thing kept derailing her momentum and confidence: cash flow. While she knew academically that she was making ok money, at the end of each month there never seemed to be any in the account. That feeling of always just scraping by was beginning to take its toll.

“It felt like I was always at the bottom of my overdraft, or not paying myself for months on end. I knew I had a good business, but I truly began to question whether I was really cut out for it.”

That, Helen says, had knock-on effects that went far beyond paying too much in interest or scrambling to pay her GST bills.

“When you’re feeling worried about cash, you make decisions out of fear – you take on work you really shouldn’t or you hire a junior when you need someone with more experience. It holds you back,” she explains.


Thrive CA helps Words for Breakfast thrive

While Helen had a long-standing and successful relationship with a business coach, when she met Karen from Thrive CA she knew she needed her on the team.

What made Thrive CA so impressive was that they do bookkeeping, accounts and business coaching all under one roof. It means they have the oversight to be able to truly advise their clients.

“I saw instantly that this was the missing piece – the idea that someone could whip both me and my books into shape. I jumped on it,” says Helen.

For Helen, working with Thrive CA had an immediate effect.

“It was a feeling of relief – Karen was going to fix everything! She looked through my accounts, made problems disappear and truly set me up for success,” she says.   

Tailored recommendations

Based on her knowledge of Words for Breakfast and Helen’s working style, Karen made recommendations that would net the best outcome for the business – rather than one that just looked good on paper. For example, Helen had been drawing a shareholder’s salary, which makes the most business sense, but because going onto PAYE would make Helen’s day to day life easier come tax time, it was worth missing out on the small tax benefits.

Even these seemingly small changes have made huge improvements both to the business and to Helen herself. She gives an example of emails she receives weekly from the team at Thrive CA:

“They tell me how much to squirrel away into my GST savings account. It means I’m not struggling to pay my bills – it feels good,” explains Helen.

Goal-setting gets WFB on its way

Once the day-to-day operational stuff was squared away, Karen helped Helen get focussed on her goals – beyond just money.

“I loved that she wasn’t just pushing me to make more and more money and grow bigger. She recognised that, yes, money and growth are important, but that people have other priorities,” says Helen.

Once Karen understood those big goals, she and the team could use their skills and insight to break those goals down into achievable steps.

“That part is what’s missing from so much goal setting,” says Helen. “Sure, that’s where you want to be, but what do you need to do today to get there? It’s so easy to go off track.”

Helen and Karen meet each month to review progress against goals, to discuss new ideas, troubleshoot issues, and re-energise for the month.

“It means I’m always clear on my priorities, and feel confident enough to make tough decisions,” says Helen.

Helen says she sometimes looks back and marvels at how the business ever functioned before working with Thrive CA.

“I think we were just crashing from crisis to crisis, to be honest,” she says. “I try not to think about how much further ahead we’d be if we’d started with Karen earlier!”

Thrive CA services used by Words for Breakfast:

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