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A proverb, referenced for the first time around 500 years ago, proves we humans are slow learners.

The Shoemaker’s Children Go Barefoot may have old and unclear origins, but it’s something that is still too often seen today. It’s meant to illuminate the fact that the people closest to us often lack the service or product that we provide readily to others.

In that particular case, shoes.

As professionals, the ones closest to us – especially our own businesses – should in fact be the best testing ground for the service or product we provide.

I began my own bookkeeping company four years ago, after gaining eighteen years of accounting experience. The efforts began: building my business plan, doing market research, promising how much I was going to do for my potential clients.

The good news is that my business took off and I was swamped with great clients in no time.

But when you’re busy, whose work comes last? That’s right, your own. And proper bookkeeping is something that can get away on you all too quickly.

When I expressed my frustration to others in the industry, I was shocked to find out how many of us were in the same boat. We joked about it of course: “I’m my own worst bookkeeper!” You could probably put any profession in that sentence.

What’s your profession or business? Do you provide for yourself the same service at the same quality of service that you do for others?

Look at it this way; how will potential clients know that you CAN provide them the service you promise if you don’t even provide it for yourself?

For me, it is a question of integrity in my business. I should have no expectation that anyone believe my proposal if I don’t even do it for myself.

I’m grateful for the newer saying: “eating your own dog food.” This means using your own products and services within your own business.

I’m still a work in progress. However, I strive every day to make sure my own books are always up to date, and my taxes always completed on time, even early. The software and applications I recommend to clients should be ones I use myself – and if I don’t love them, I won’t presume my clients would either.

If you’re a photographer, you should have the most amazing family photos. A carpenter, then you should make yourself beautiful, sturdy furniture. If you’re a shoemaker than make sure your kids have well made shoes. If you own a dog food company, well, if your dog’s tail wags madly at dinnertime, then you’ll both be happier for it.

If you have ever found yourself thinking, “I’m my own worst client!” there’s always time to improve this area of your work life and start doing your best work for your own business.