“If you always make the right decision, the safe decision, the one that most people make, then you’ll always be the same as everyone else.” – Paul Arden

I want to share something I do each morning, not out of devilment, but as a constant reminder to think differently and to find the path that’s right for myself and my business.

Now the GoProposal and My Accountancy Place Offices are in Manchester (where it always rains) and I live in Yorkshire (where God’s from.)

So each morning I have to get on the 6:26am train out of Dodge (which I’m on now) and to get to the platform I have to go up the staircase where one side says “PLEASE KEEP LEFT” and the other side says “NO ENTRY.”

And every day… I walk up the “NO ENTRY” side (yes… I’m that guy.)

But there is a very important and fundamental reason why I do this, and it’s strategic.

“If you can’t solve a problem, it’s because you’re playing by the rules.” – Paul Arden

You see, in business, it’s so easy to follow the crowd. It’s so easy to look at what the next company is doing and then to do something similar, only slightly better.

And the problem with that thinking (and this is especially true for accountancy firms) is that the firm next to you might be so low level, that if you only improve on what they’re doing, you’ll never be great…. you just won’t be as bad as them.

This tactic is dangerous because it requires no thought. And if it requires no thought, then you’re relying on the decisions of those who went before you and those who went before them.

But you don’t know if those decisions are taking you towards mediocrity or over a cliff.

So we have to constantly stop and ask ourselves “where are we heading” and “is this path is going to get us there?” We have to keep making micro adjustments en route to keep us on the path towards our most ambitious goals.

And that path might not be well trodden. There might not even be a path. And where there is no path, no way, we have to make a way.

“Don’t follow the path. Blaze the trail.” – Jordan Belfort

And this mindset is especially difficult for accountancy firms to have, because you’re in a world with hundreds of years of history, which is heavily regulated, where no-one wants to rock the boat (because it’s been so good for so long), with a long history of just following the crowd and because your natural default is to look for what’s wrong (a great mindset for an accountant, but not for someone blazing a trail.)

So why do I take the “NO ENTRY” staircase?

I take the “NO ENTRY” staircase as a constant reminder myself to challenge the status quo, and to choose the path that’s right for me, not just the one that’s well trodden.

Now if you don’t want to be knocking people out of the way on staircases because you think it’s stupid, let me give you 17 questions you can ask to jolt you out of your current thinking and challenge your current path.

  1. What is the life that I REALLY want?
  2. What would make me feel excited to wake up every morning?
  3. Is my business currently giving me the life that I want?
  4. What would my business have to look like in order to give me the life that I want?
  5. What’s the very BEST I could make my business?
  6. Is this current path going to get me there?
  7. Where do I REALLY want to get to?
  8. Is there a faster route to get there?
  9. Is there a more profitable route to get there?
  10. Is there a more enjoyable route to get there?
  11. When I’m grey and old in my rocking chair, what’s the regret I don’t want to have?
  12. What small change could we make TODAY to take us closer towards our most ambitious goals?
  13. What’s the MOST impact we could have on our clients?
  14. What ONE thing could we stop doing that’s taking us off course.
  15. Will everyone currently on this journey want to come with us on this new path?
  16. Does that matter?
  17. How could I make the world a little bit better (and it doesn’t have to be the whole world, just somebody’s world will be enough.)

At the end of the day, we only get so many laps of the sun, so you must find the right path for YOU, whatever that is, and regardless of what anyone else may think….

….and next time you’re in a train station, I hope you take the wrong stairs (and when you do, take a photo and post it in the comments ha ha.)

“The person who doesn’t make a mistake, is unlikely to make anything.” – Paul Arden
James Ashford

James Ashford

James is the Founder of GoProposal, Director of MAP., Keynote Speaker & Bestselling Author of "Selling to Serve". He helps accountants and bookkeepers around the world to price more profitably, sell more confidently and to give significantly more value to their clients.