How ProgressBB grew their online coaching business by 4x

We caught up with Richard Brewin, who, together with wife Rowena, runs ProgressBB. Both highly experienced accountants, they now run a coaching practice that’s dedicated to helping other accountants build happier and more profitable businesses.

Richard & Rowena have grown their client base by 4x over the past 18 months and we were keen to find out about the strategies and tools that they have implemented as the business has moved predominantly online.

Since starting ProgressBB, we’ve been working on mentoring and coaching small firms of accountants to raise their game. Not from a technical point of view, but to have more fun and more success with their firms!

Richard Brewin, ProgressBB

What sort of businesses do ProgressBB work with?

Richard: “Most of the firms that we work with are small firms of accountants. We target 1–3 partner firms mainly because it’s the market that we relate to ourselves from our own experience and it’s the one that we can have the greatest impact in.”

Richard and Rowena work directly with business owners and he says that this is really important.

Richard: “The client and their business are very much related. Our clients want to achieve as individuals in their own personal lives and achieve with their firms. There’s usually a very direct correlation between the two.”

Richard says that it is essential that practice owners remember why they started their business in the first place.

Richard: “We get accountants to really put out their hearts — their fears, their concerns and their dreams!”

ProgressBB has a global reach — with clients in North America & Australia — but the majority of growth has come from UK-based firms, which they have been able to access by switching to a predominantly remote business model.

ProgressBB

How has ProgressBB grown in recent times?

Richard: “Traditionally our business model followed a face-to-face model, which is fairly normal for coaching and mentoring businesses. We would get in the car and go and see clients! And then we reached full capacity on the model in early 2018. We recognized that if we wanted to have a great impact — which is one of the big drivers for us — then we needed to find a way of being able to service more clients.

[Back in 2019] We came up with the idea of creating an online version of what we do. It’s a learning platform that accountants can sign up for and use the content that we create — videos or worksheets.”

Then March 2020 came on and from a business mode point of view at least, the timing was perfect. We had to shift from face-to-face work and it enabled us to combine the sort of work that we were doing.”

The fact that people became very comfortable communicating with us using online video conferencing made us realize that actually, there was a different way for us to scale the business — by combining the online and the face-to-face together. So we’ve seen a sort of hybrid [working style] develop that is far more effective than either the entirely face-to-face or the entirely online.”

It’s much more fun now because we can interact with people that are far, but still get that personal involvement.

Richard Brewin, ProgressBB

The upsides of remote client meetings

Richard is keen to stress the benefits — for both his clients and his business — of regular remote meetings.

Richard: “What we do have is a greater focus —  it starts on time, it finishes on time. You can drive the agendas, but you don’t lose the personal side as well. So it’s become a win-win for us.

Also the fact that a lot of the time we’re talking to accountants in their own homes, for instance, means that they’re more open. They’re a little bit more relaxed than maybe they would be in the office with somebody.

All of a sudden, you’re seeing that picture on the wall or the cat coming through because everyone is sitting there. It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere that people very quickly got into. And, I think that that’s there to stay.

[Clients are saying:] let’s just keep this going. Let’s say, do one in three face-to-face and let’s keep the rest online, because I like the results I’m getting.”

What are the biggest challenges for ProgressBB when working with clients?

Richard: “Maintaining and building confidence, building belief and maintaining inertia. These are always challenges for accountants. 

[They say] ‘I don’t have time to do that’. It’s [about] breaking through that and making them understand that ultimately if they want to change things, they’re the ones who are going to have to do it. We can support, we can encourage, but change has to come from them.

None of us like to be held accountable. None of us like being reminded of what we’ve agreed to do. But, we also recognize that we have to live in that world if we’re going to be successful.”

Trust is such a key part of it. Before Covid, trust was built through face-to-face relationships — it was seen as much harder to do online.” Richard says that a new suite of digital tools has made building that trust so much easier.”

How do ProgressBB manage outcomes and drive accountability with their clients?

Richard: “This is going to sound like a marketing piece that I didn’t intend it to be! But Connect4 is a great tool. You can sit here on screen, you can see the people face-to-face. You can see what you are talking about. You can see what you agreed to in the last meeting. There’s no argument! There’s no ‘you didn’t say that’ because you can go straight back into the recording and say ‘well, yes, you did’ — this is what we all agreed on.”

Focusing on the human side is actually the big thing going forward. Getting clients performing at the best of their abilities and getting them to reflect their values.

Richard Brewin, ProgressBB

Why do you use Connect4 for online client meetings?

Richard: “It’s that it follows the whole meeting process — it encourages both the meeting organizer and the other parties with prompts to do the things that we should be doing.

As an example, we all talk about the value of having an agenda in the meeting. But, how many times do we actually bother doing that before we have the meeting? [Connect4] almost forces you down that route with any meeting. It’s the same with the actions — the fact that you can not only record those actions, but record the managing itself so that people can go back in and refresh the conversations.”

It’s all been quite smartly thought through and linked together. Fundamentally, you could just sit on a zoom call and do this, but it wouldn’t link it all together.

Richard Brewin, Progress

Richard: “There’s a greater sense of belonging. I think that’s the big thing for me. You could have 50 different clients, and each one feels that they’re very unique. That makes it a very powerful tool. It’s something special as far as the client is concerned. It has greater value than just jumping on a zoom call.”

Key takeaways

What we’ve learnt from ProgressBB about growing their online business.

  • Many clients are happy to meet online and might favour 3 out 4 meetings taking place on a video call, if not a 100% remote relationship.
  • Online client meetings have the potential to be more focussed and efficient than in-person meetings. But this can only be achieved with a clear agenda and well documented outcomes and actions.
  • Online meetings can bring other unexpected benefits. Many clients may feel more comfortable in a more casual setting and might open up more than they normally would.
  • Maintaining momentum is absolutely crucial for remote relationships to work. This means regular structured check-ins.
  • Utilizing modern tools such as Connect4 is essential for driving accountability amongst clients.

Many thanks to Richard Brewin for taking the time to speak to us about ProgressBB’s stellar success — long may they thrive and grow!

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Rory Macrae

Rory is Connect4’s Head of Design. He leads the design of the app as well as all things related to the Connect4 brand.

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