Systems Systems Systems!

Systems can play a critical role in how we do our business – and there are so many amazing ones out there that help us ensure we’re staying on top of things effectively. While I still thrive with a classic pen-and-paper To-Do list, I definitely have found some systems that have become integral to my business over the years. Finding systems that work for you, as an entrepreneur and business owner, especially in this remote World is SO important!

Now, before I go into what systems help keep Willow Oak moving, as your friendly accountant, I would be remiss to not gently remind you that watching your monthly subscription costs are key to ensuring you’re not oversubscribing. There are a lot of cool systems out there and they can be so intriguing to buy with their reasonable pricing and bells and whistles. Make sure you’re reviewing your monthly subscriptions regularly to ensure all of your systems are still providing you with enough value to justify the cost. 


Now – on to the 4 key Systems of Willow Oak:

Email, Team Collaboration, & File Storage: Gmail 

How many of you use Gmail?

Photo : Krsto Jevtic

Okay.. Now how many of you use Gmail to its full potential?  ⁠

Seriously, Gmail and Gsuite are amazing tools for collaboration, organization, and communication. With one subscription, you have your email interface, your calendar, your professional tools, and your document storage. ⁠

I used Dropbox for the longest time, but then realized I could save on my monthly subscription by using the built in feature Gmail has while getting the same benefits. It took some getting used to initially, but now that we’re up and running it is so nice to have all my professional tools all in one place. 

My favourite feature of Gmail is the ability to collaborate with your team on spreadsheets, word docs, and presentations. No more issues with version control – everyone has access to the same document at the same time. ⁠

Task Management: Asana

Photo : Forbes

Next I want to talk about Asana, the tool we use to manage our team tasks. 

Asana is an incredible internal tool that is designed to support team communication, goal achievement, and task management. It allows me to know what the exact progress is in all the things we have going on, and gives us a single source of truth as we work through packed calendars and client turnaround times.

It also allows me to manage any internal tasks (like social media posts and client newsletters!) by allowing me to categorize the tasks, assign due dates, and assign owners. Me and my team can just log in, see our list of tasks in order of due date, and get shit done 

Now that’s what I call a powerful tool.

Client Relationship Management: Dubsado 

Photo: Dubsado

We signed up for Dubsado in early 2020 and it has provided so much value to our business. We use Dubsado primarily as our CRM system. I needed a tool to manage all of my clients so I knew exactly where to go to access my clients information, as well as manage my client onboarding and house all of our contracts and important client documents. 

Dubsado checked all these boxes! 

With financials, there’s a lot to remember about each client; business numbers, filing requirements, names, multiple emails and the list goes on. Dubsado is a user-friendly system that stores all this information, and allows me to build new fields as I need them. 

We also needed help to streamline our onboarding process. Dubsado stores our branded contracts and canned emails for simple, streamlined workflows. My favourite is I can edit each one before sending in order to personalize as I see fit! I love automation but at Willow Oak, that personal relationship is very important to us!

PS: if you use our code “willowoak-dub” when purchasing Dubsado, you can get 20% off your first month or year!

Accounting/Invoicing: Quickbooks

As an accountant, I have to mention the system we use most, Quickbooks Online. I use Quickbooks as my online accounting software as well as working with it with 90% of my clients.

Photo : apps4rent

Quickbooks online is a very intuitive online accounting system. A few of the benefits that I love

  • Great financials reports and ability to dig deeper and navigate within these
  • Clean and organize interface; easy to navigate
  • Connects with your bank and credit cards to allow for each transactions and reconciliations

There are a lot of great accounting systems out there but if you haven’t chosen one yet, I recommend putting Quickbooks into your picks!

I hope you can use the blog post to guide you in your decision making if you’re trying to figure out where to invest in your business. It can be scary to make these decisions blind – so I wanted to give you all a little peek into the systems that have been helping us move forward so quickly at Willow Oak. 

About Courtney

Cover Photo: Shelby Rose Photography

Hi! I’m Courtney Hughes!

I was born and raised in Ladner BC and still live here with my husband, Dylan, one year old son, Jaxon, and our two cats Benjen Stark and Francine. 

I have my BBA in Human Resources Management and have nearly a decade of experience working in both larger corporate settings and smaller non-profit settings. 

I’m absolutely an ‘ideas’ and ‘big picture’ person. I rarely look at tasks as an individual, and view them as a piece of an entire system. For the most part this allows me to create things that feel complete and whole to me. This translates to all areas in my life, whether it’s doing a work project, hosting a dinner, or tackling a home improvement project. I throw out big ideas, and then scale them back til they fit snugly within the confines of the system 🙂 

On a personal note, I live a primarily plant based lifestyle, and have for 4 years. I love creating vegan meals that are “Carnivore-approved” (a much easier task than you’d expect) and am constantly on the hunt for new, fun, nutritious recipes. I barely enjoyed cooking before I made the switch, but ever since it’s become a complete and total passion. If I’m not talking about food, I’m thinking about it – and often find myself asking my husband “What should we have for dinner?” as soon as we wake up. 

Photo: Kelsey Lynch Real Estate

More recently I’ve taken on the adventure of baking and cake decorating – pictured below is the fully vegan (which doesn’t always mean healthy!) birthday cake I made for Jaxon’s first birthday. I’ve always loved sweets and treats – so this newest journey has been a fun one for me! 

During this pandemic, I’ve come to realize how much I love the journey of learning and improving on a new skill. Before COVID, I was an avid West-Coast Swing dancer. I often traveled as far as California to spend weekends dancing and competing with friends from all across the world. I loved the journey of improving as an individual dancer, taking private lessons and having practice sessions and watching my competition results improve over the years. I think in some way this is the void that my new cake-decorating hobby is filling – a new skill to continually learn and master. I don’t really have a target destination for either, I just enjoy the journey of improvement. 

I am so, so, so excited to be part of the Willow Oak brand and to get to know all of you. If there’s one thing I’ve learned since coming on board, it’s that the community of entrepreneurs is so inspiring and powerful and I’ve been loving every minute of it. 

The Value of Time

Time is your most valuable asset – it is so important that we do our best to manage it so that we can achieve what we’d like to in a day, and still have room to breathe by the end of it! I’ve spent my entire journey of entrepreneurship strengthening my relationship with time, and I’ve come up with some must-do’s if you’re looking to do the same. 

I know that these strategies seem daunting up front, but trust me when I say they are integral to your business and to your mental health. Your time is valuable, and it is so important that you understand it well in order to achieve that oh-so-sweet “on top of it” feeling. 

Time Tracking

I was new to time tracking when I started my business. To be honest, I tried to stay away from it because it seemed like an overwhelming task, and I didn’t see the value in doing it.

Turns out, it’s one of the most important tools in my business. It helps me plan, understand my business, and track my overall business goals! Some specific benefits I’ve found from time tracking include:

  • Pricing & Billing: I can clearly see how many labour hours are going into our services, meaning I can bill my clients appropriately, and I alleviate the likelihood of leaving hours unbilled by doing tasks in small increments and not marking it down
  • Weekly Planning: By time tracking, you get a way better understanding of how long certain tasks take you, allowing you to comfortably plan your week without getting overwhelmed. 
  • Understanding When I Need Help: When I track the hours I spend on my own business, I can tell when certain aspects of work are taking too much of my time. From there I can make a decision on outsourcing some help in these areas. 

“But Megan, I get that timetracking is important, I just don’t know how to start doing it!”

Well, let me tell you my top tips that helped me take timetracking from a task to a habit:

  • Choose a method that works for you: I’ve gone back and forth between online tools and good ol’ paper and pen. I am strongest at pen and paper. I use my planner for my days and move it over to invoicing at the end of the day. I will move to online one day but for now, I know this works best for me.
  • Decide if you will use increments: If you plan to have a minimum increment, (e.g. 15 minutes), ensure this is communicated with clients and/or teammates.
  • Record time IMMEDIATELY at beginning and end of task: I used to get busy and try to summarize my time tracking at the end of the day. There was no way I could remember all the tasks I did which left me under billing!
  • Organize your tasks so you aren’t jumping back and forth: The more you jump around, the less likely you will capture time…. Which leads me to my next topic…. Time Blocking!

Time blocking 

Time blocking is a magical way to organize your days and weeks. Rather than going off a massive list of to-do’s, block your day with specific tasks. And then do them. No opening emails or checking social media – I promise, those can wait. 

Here are my key tips to timeblocking that have been very effective for me: 

Block off big chunks of time for bigger projects so you can sit down and focus on them

  • Block out time for personal tasks too! Especially in this remote world, the line is ever-blurring between personal and work. 
  • Start your days with work that NEEDS to get done and/or your most daunting project. It will make the rest of the day feel more relaxed and enjoyable. 
  • Carve out 15-30 minute slots specifically for emails. Only check your inbox during those times. I know, easier said than done. But I promise they’ll still be there for you and you’ll get back to them more thoughtfully when it’s the only task on your plate. 
  • Have some extra bonus tasks on hand: You can tackle these when all these great time management tips leave you with some free time at the end of the day 😉 

I can’t say it enough, time is your most valuable asset. I want to make sure I am using it to the fullest.. and that includes rest time! 

Happy Time Tracking! 

No Heartbeat

August 1, 2019

I remember that day vividly. 

Evan was off to help with his sister’s wedding. With twins, I was already having appointments and ultrasounds weekly so decided there was no reason for Evan to come to the ultrasound. I went alone thinking it’d be the same as always.

Within the first 2 minutes, I thought something was off. I recall the ultrasound probe going back and forth all around my tummy – and it felt different than usual. 

“They have said how twins can be hard to scan because they are so squished in there,” I thought to myself. I also just thought it was the tech. Maybe she was new. 

Nearing the end of the ultrasound, the tech, who normally would turn the screen to me and show me the babies, said, “I’ll be back, I have to go talk to the radiologist.” That moment I knew. I knew something was wrong. 

I felt movement so I first thought maybe she saw an abnormality. What felt like 2 hours, actually like 20 minutes of me sitting in the room by myself, she came back in and said that she can’t show me today but told me that I needed to call my doctor. 

Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time this had happened. We lost our first pregnancy in 2016, so I was 99% sure about what was going on. 

I calmly said “okay”, got dressed, went to the washroom (full bladder) and walked to my car alone. 

I got in, called my doctor and the receptionist answered. I asked for the doctor and the lady told me that she was in surgery right now. 

That’s when it flooded out. I broke down in tears and told her everything. 

The receptionist was the sweetest, told me she’d find out everything she could and call me back. After that, I paged the midwives, knowing it’d be a couple minutes before I’d get a call back. Then I phoned Evan, and asked him to step away from others. 

“I don’t know exactly, but something’s wrong,” I told him. He told me he’d come get me, but I just told him I was coming home, not to tell anyone, and that I’d text him soon.

The midwife called me back and gosh poor lady, it was a locum midwife on call! So she’d never met me, it was her first day on call, and she had to tell me I lost my baby. I told her what was happening, and she told me she just received the report. She calmly said,

“I’m sorry. Baby B has passed away.” 

Amongst our conversations and tears, I remember her simply saying “ughh, this sucks.” And in all its simplicity, it was honestly just so nice to hear. A real response – no sugar coating. Ya, this f’ing sucks.  

I appreciated her in that moment. 

She told me that I’d likely need to go to the hospital, and instructed me to go home, meet my husband, pack a hospital bag just in case, and head over.

On my way home, I chatted between the midwife and receptionist. They didn’t know exactly what would happen until I got checked out but they mentioned I may have to deliver soon. I was horrified. 

1) Baby A would only be 28 weeks so that’s scary as is and 

2) It was two days before Evan’s sister’s wedding. 

No. Absolutely not. This can’t be happening. Not today. 

I called my friend Jessica on the way home and told her. I was distraught.

When I drove into the driveway, Evan walked out and I collapsed in his arms saying 

“We lost our boy.” 

I was already late picking up my bridesmaid dress so Evan rushed to get it while I packed my hospital bag. We called Evan’s brother to pick our son up from daycare and we headed to the hospital. At this point, we hadn’t told anyone else. 

At the hospital we found out, in light of the terrible news, that because the babies were on different blood supplies, we didn’t have to deliver now. We still weren’t sure when I’d have to deliver, but it wasn’t now. 

When we got home on Thursday, we decided to keep the news to ourselves until after the wedding. Of course we didn’t want to take away attention from the big day but also, honestly a couple days to digest the news on our own was what we needed. 

Some people ask if it was hard to get through a big event on the weekend. Honestly, not at all. I was truly happy to celebrate a beautiful day. It was happy and it felt great to be there.

We told our family and close friends on the Monday. The support we received was incredible. Thank you to the midwives, my OB and all the healthcare workers for taking care of us and being so kind.

About a week later, we found out we could carry on with the pregnancy, hopefully carrying close to full term. 

I do wonder what he would have looked like. Kennedy has so many similarities to William that I imagine Oakley would have been the spitting image of William. Or I wonder if he would have looked completely different. I wonder what his laugh would have sounded like and what the life of three under three would have been. 

I wonder if Kennedy will ever tell us more about Oakley. I wonder how the kids will react when we talk about him.

I went seven months thinking we’d have three kids on earth. I went seven months knowing this would complete our family. Now I don’t know. I just don’t know what it means. 

Oakley – born still Oct 14, 2019 at 12:31 pm.  I will carry you forever in my heart. 

He will be born still, but he will be born. 

Rowan Collective | Collaborations

Together, for you and your business!

The trusted allies you have been waiting for, with the accountability and partnership you crave.

As business owners who know the value of collaboration, we have banded together to bring our skills, knowledge, and enthusiasm to help business owners achieve their goals.

Offering high impact, budget-conscious packages, with a minimum time commitment, that not only offer support to you – the human behind the business, but that also tackle areas of friction within the business. 

Managing every function in your company can be challenging in the best of times. From your finances, marketing plans, operations, and systems – the purpose of Rowan Collective is to remove the stress and to bring balance back into your business, and your life.

WHO ARE WE?

Kelly

Business Development + Operations

Hi, I’m Kelly, a multi-passionate entrepreneur, integrator, and Founder and CEO of Rowan Consulting and Rowan Collective. I have an extensive career in business management + development. With time spent in both ownership and corporate, I am passionate about helping my clients create a successful business that aligns with their values and aspirations. I want everyone to feel complete, empowered and supported in every aspect of their lives.

Lindsay

Marketing

Hey, I am Lindsay, Founder and CEO of Pink Crown Creative. I am an Entrepreneur, Business Builder, Speaker, Event Planner, Consultant, Writer and Mentor. I have been in the sales and marketing industry for almost 15 years. I am passionate about providing entrepreneurs and owners with the right support, tools and encouragement to build the careers and the lives of their dreams.

Megan

Finance

I’m Megan Hughes, CPA, Founder and CEO of Willow Oak Business Consulting. I love all things business related, and enjoy working to make processes more efficient. I have an affinity for numbers. After leaving corporate to pursue my passion in helping entrepreneurs and owners, I could quickly see that small business owners could really benefit from curated packages to assist in achieving and exceeding their business and personal goals.

Our packages focus on:

  • Finance
    • Bookkeeping 
    • Financial Discovery
  • Marketing
    • Digital Marketing Strategy
    • Social Media Consulting
  • Business Development
    • Strategy & Operations
    • Goals & Targets

We are offering 3 tiered packages for every budget and business:

  • The Mini
    • 8 hours
  • The Middi
    • 12 hours
  • The Maxi 
    • 16 hours

We are thrilled to let you know that a donation will be made to one of three organizations with every package sold. (Ask us more about it!)

This is for you if:

  • if you’re tired of going at it alone
  • if you’re frustrated by not knowing how to start or where to turn to next
  • you’re here because you know you need clarity
  • you’re in need of a thought partner to brainstorm or problem solve with

Want to learn more?

Combined we have helped over 50+ business owners set their goals, and meet their goals beyond. Money, waiting for your clients to knock at your door, and having the proper strategy and systems in place when they do, is really scary – we are here to change that!

What is Rowan Collective? 

As it is still being shaped in its entirety in the background –  the first step Kelly wanted to take with it was to begin launching the collaboration piece of the company, and with that – the three of us came together to serve, and your business. 

Visit https://www.rowanconsulting.ca/rowan-collective for more details and to get started!

About Me + Willow Oak

Hi! I wanted to introduce myself for anyone new to our page / blog! My name is Megan Hughes, I am a mama of two, CPA, constantly decluttering and redesigning home and the Founder of Willow Oak Business Consulting Ltd. I live just outside of Vancouver, BC with my husband, Evan and children, William and Kennedy.

I have an affinity for numbers and I love all things business related. From a young age, I loved numbers and always imagined myself in that business casual outfit, leading meetings and feeling that excitement when a big messy account is reconciled. 

Although I used to imagine this in a corporate office setting, after having my son, my once love for the corporate 9-5 left me less inspired. I began seeking something new that would provide me with the lifestyle I desired. Welcome, Willow Oak! 

When I’m not working, you can find me hanging out with my close family and friends. I’m a homebody at heart, and although I love spending time with those close to me, coming home after a social event is the best feeling in the World to me. I am the happiest waking up early to my husband, babies, fur kitty Gus and a warm cup of coffee (with some Silk creamer of course). 

Over the past few years, I have been on a wild personal growth journey.

To start, I began a plant based lifestyle just over 3 years ago and have learned a lot about food, new recipes and the impact that plant based living has on the World. I am definitely not perfect, but I enjoy continuously learning and being better at conscious living

Next, I learned how to say “no” to things that didn’t bring me joy. I grew to understand what self care meant to me and learned that saying no to things like dinners or social events was okay. 

Finally, I realized how much living a simple and decluttered life inspired me.  I learned a lot about the art of living simple, minimizing “stuff”, and buying quality over quantity. 

Behind Willow Oak

Now, how was Willow Oak born? As I mentioned above, after having our son, I found myself feeling less inspired in the corporate setting despite loving my work. I started to dream of what I wanted my life to look like 5, 10, 15 years down the line. What days would like, what vacation/trips would look like for our family. With the life I desired, I realized entrepreneurship was a strong contender on how to make that happen. 

From my 8 years of corporate experience, both were in relatively small corporations (under 150 employees). I always had a passion for small businesses because I really enjoyed knowing everyone. Even though I was the “little” person on the corporate ladder, I still had interactions with the CEO, the VP’s, and the executives. Small enough that no matter where you were, a beginner or a leader, you all had communication and an impact somehow. I always knew I wanted to stay in the small business sector. 

I have always had a creative side to me. I have a love for interior design and fashion. Although I am no expert, I was always drawn to the creative businesses as a way to release my creative side without it being my expertise.  I could see that these small business owners could really benefit from curated packages to assist in achieving and exceeding their business and personal goals. I understand that in running a business of any sort, one wears many hats, and if there is one part of it that really sucks the soul out of you, so to speak, it’s the “business” side of things. Since I happen to love this part of it, I realized it was a great niche for me!

Welcome, Willow Oak Business Consulting! 

The Name – Where did the name come from?

The name started out as Willow, which is a play on the name William, my son. William is the inspiration behind me taking the leap into entrepreneurship. Becoming a mother taught me that in order to be the best mother I could be, I needed to be the best version of myself. Through this new journey, I realized being a business owner was the right fit for me. 

Preparing for this new venture, I looked to the Willow tree for inspiration. To me, it brings spirituality, balance, learning, growth and flexibility. As much as I loved the name, I felt it wasn’t complete. The Oak (tree) was added to the name to bring strength, resistance, power and knowledge. 

The two balance and support each other by working together. Working as a team to bring individual strengths is the exact philosophy behind Willow Oak Business Consulting.

It also wasn’t a coincidence that we knew, if we were graced with a second baby, we wanted to name them Oakley 😉 Our son, who was born still on October 14, 2019 was named Oakley Tucker Hughes and his twin sister, Kennedy, holds his name, Oak as her middle name xx

Willow Oak launched January 14th, 2019 and it’s been the most amazing, hard, exciting journey! Follow us as we grow and learn in this journey of entrepreneurship xo

First Year of Entrepreneurship

On the night Willow Oak launched, a couple of my closest friends came over, we popped a bottle of champagne and pressed, *post*. That was it. Months of dreaming, branding, website-building and talking myself into this being a good idea all came up to one moment. The moment it went live. 

To be honest, I had no idea what Willow Oak was going to bring me. I actually went in thinking I’d make very little in the first couple years. Money was never much of a factor for me. The only rule I had was, “If I wasn’t making enough to provide for my family in the first two years then I’d have to reconsider”. 

I had NO idea that in the first 12 months, I’d have 2 team members and be making more money than my corporate job. By month 10, I made my first five figure month and by the end of the 13th month I made 6 figures and started making a monthly income that would be near double what I made at my corporate job. 

Aside from the numbers, Willow Oak has brought me so much joy. Creating a business from nothing has been so exciting. It allowed me to use my creative side, learn new things, push myself to new levels and take on something bigger than myself.

Looking back from where I am now, however, I can’t deny that the first year was a humbling experience filled with new emotions and learning curves. 

The first couple months were low key and slow, signing a couple clients and continuing contractor work at my previous job. 

Once the launch excitement cooled down, it honestly started to feel a bit lonely. I wasn’t used to not having a team or a boss to run things by, and sitting at my computer by myself was definitely something to get used to. On top of that, to be completely honest, it also felt like people around me didn’t understand. I’d always get comments about having so much time now or that I was so lucky to have my own schedule. Yes, entrepreneurship is definitely more flexible but as flexible as it can be it’s also 24/7, especially in the first year when you’re getting started.  I felt like I was working harder and longer than I ever had, but it seemed as though some thought I was just relaxing at home. 

As hard as it was, I can honestly say I won’t ever look back. It’s been a roller coaster. There are times when things are going super smooth, and then there are times where I feel lost. But even in the hard, I have the desire to make Willow Oak something special. It gives me the possibility to do what I love, to spend more time at home and with my kids. It brings me the opportunity to use my knowledge to support others who are creating their own beauty. That’s what I believe my life purpose is. 

I truly feel that I am meant to support and give back in this life I live and I believe Willow Oak can help me do just that. 

To all the entrepreneurs out there, you’re doing a kick-ass job! I see you and I love watching all of you succeed ✨ if we work together, we can all move mountains ✨