Mount St. Laundry & Breaking Down a Process

This week on QBO Show, our guest was Joe Woodard, and we discussed the upcoming Scaling New Heights conference, and it got me thinking about Mount St. Laundry and the entire idea of breaking down a process – whatever that process might be.

As he was explaining the theme behind this year’s conference, it dawned on me that it was similar to what I teach in StacyK Academy. It’s a variation of what I first referred to as Mount St. Laundry, way back in 2011, what I’ve talked about many times on previous shows, and brought up recently on my own blog, as well as Intuit’s Firm of the Future site.

This Mount St. Laundry idea (you can listen to me explain it here, start around the 16:40 mark, it finishes around 20:15), is what prompted me to begin planning StacyK Academy in 2014, and launch it the summer of 2015.

The Mount St. Laundry theory is breaking down a process and tackling each part, one at a time.


If you don’t want to listen to that part of the show, the TL;DR is this: managing a certain part your business is like dealing with a pile of laundry. It looms over you and can seem overwhelming, until you divide it up – whites, darks, reds, etc – and take on each small load. It’s all about breaking down a process and taking on each part of it, one step at a time.

Breaking down a process = sorting laundry

Breaking down a process, like sorting a giant pile of laundry, makes it easier to manage

Here are just a few steps in the path to tackle your Mount St. Laundry (or your client’s) and begin breaking down a process. We’ll use a common one I hear in the accounting community: “How do I grow my practice?”.

  1. Identifying why it needs to be addressed. Is this internal pressure, or external? Internal pressure may be that you have a goal to build a business that you can sell, or you’re at a tipping point and can’t take on any more clients without hiring. External pressure might be that you’re being told you need to grow, or your clients are asking for additional services.
  2. Examining what you’re doing. Take a look at the types of clients you have, compared to what you’d like to have. What about your team members? What’s working? What isn’t?
  3. Defining the desired outcome. I’ve found that many times, it’s easier to work backwards from what you’re looking to accomplish. For this use case, you should figure out what “grow” means. Does it mean more clients? More staff or team members? More revenue? It could even be something as simple as you personally want to work less hours. It could even be all of the above.
  4. Breaking down a process. Working backwards from your goal in growing, break that down into smaller parts to take on. Clients, staff, revenue. For clients, let go of the ones that won’t help you reach the goal, and come up with a marketing plan to acquire those that will. For staff, start documenting workflow so they have the 3 aspects I teach in StacyK Academy: repeatable, trainable & scalable; this will make it easier for existing team members and any new hires to be on the same page. For revenue, you can evaluate current services and look for ways to streamline, look at additional services to add to your offerings, and examine current pricing to ensure you’re charging enough to cover your costs and that it can scale with your business.

I’ve been trying to help fellow accounting professionals with this for quite a few years now. In 2013, it was providing them with an action plan to move their practice online while presenting Intuit’s Find Freedom in the Cloud. These days it’s providing a checklist for new ProAdvisors, or via StacyK Academy by providing training and tools for managing their practice.My point here isn’t “I’ve been doing this forever”; I’m trying to say that this is an issue that any type of business will continue to encounter. I’m so glad to see the Scaling New Heights conference this summer taking on this theme as well! 

My last piece of advice for this: relax. Don’t feel pressure to grow just because. Right now might not be the best time to do this, for a variety of reasons. Take your time to plan your growth; you don’t want to be stressed out, you don’t want to lose good team members, and you want to be able to provide stellar customer service. Be realistic about expectations; you probably won’t double your revenue in the next 12 months. I think this might always be an issue, for many people: taking on the Mount St. Laundry and breaking down a process, whatever that process might be.

By breaking down a process into actionable steps, we can achieve business goals


If we look at each small load of clothes we can put in the washer, rather than just staring at the intimidating Mount St. Laundry… if we look at breaking down a process into actionable steps, we can achieve business goals – heck, life goal in general – with a plan, and so much less stress. In the end, we’ll all end up smelling like a mountain breeze, right?

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