How saying ‘no’ helped me with an anti-money laundering inspection

If there wasn’t enough stress to deal with last year with the ongoing pandemic and all the changes that came with it, plus the loss of my beloved Dachshund of 17 years, an email dropped into my inbox mid-November telling me that I had been chosen to have an anti-money laundering inspection.

Funnily enough, I never usually get chosen for anything. I’m the kind of person that if I were the only one in a raffle draw, I wouldn’t get chosen. But hey, not this time! Of all the things to get picked for.

My heart sunk. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I was dreading it.

For those of you who are new to the VA world, by law, virtual assistants who provide bookkeeping services have to be supervised to ensure they are compliant with anti-money laundering regulations.*

The situation didn’t start off well.

Initially I wasn’t sure whether the email was real. I received an email from the supervisory body advising me of the inspection but also another one from a third party I had never heard of asking me for details of all my clients. As you can imagine, my guard went up immediately, and so did my stress levels. Even my accountant thought it was phoney. I had to spend a lot of wasted time trying to find out whether the inspection was actually genuine.

To cut a long story short, it turned out it was, and a date was set for early December. I booked the arranged date out of my diary and managed to organise cover for my clients, with an associate, whilst the inspection took place.

The inspector asked me to send specific details to them for a number of my clients chosen from the list I had given them on request. The instructions sent to me stated they had to receive the details seven days before the inspection. I received the email late afternoon Friday. In order for me to get what they wanted to them within the specified time, which worked out to be the following Monday, I had to spend a number of hours over the weekend collating the information. Not good for my already increasing stress levels.

Just to be clear, it wasn’t because I didn’t already have the details, I did. However, the platform recommended by my supervisory body is online, which meant everything is securely stored online as separate documents as per their system. The inspectors don’t have access to the online platform so everything had to be downloaded and collated.

Anyone who has had an anti-money laundering inspection knows how nerve wrecking it can be.

⚠️ Had I done everything right?

⚠️ What will happen if I haven’t?

⚠️ Will I end up losing clients?

⚠️ How will this affect my business?

These were just some of the questions going through my mind for the fortnight preceding the inspection – usually around 2 am.

The morning of the inspection came. 9:30am was the start time, with an estimated finish time of 1:30pm.

And then…

Around 8:00 am I received an email from the inspector asking me if we could reschedule to later in the week as they were unable to make it.

I sat there in disbelief. I was tired from the night before as I hadn’t slept properly. I had spent a lot of time and energy ensuring everything was ready for the inspection.

I already felt nervous about the day. And then this.

Let’s take a pause and reel back a bit.

If I hadn't started to re-evaluate my ‘people pleaser’ self months before this incident, I would have simply accepted the situation.

I would have let the anger and frustration go deep inside of me. I would have scrabbled around trying to work out how I was going to fit around another date. If my associate wasn’t able to support my clients on the rescheduled inspection, my thought process would have been “Maybe I can wing it for a few hours. Work extra hours after the inspection.”

But not this time.

Because I had taken steps to change my people pleaser behaviour, even with the pressure I was under, I managed the situation.

For a minute or two I did feel anger and frustration.

I did sit there in disbelief.

My inner chimp went berserk.**

And then, I sat back in my chair, I took a couple of deep breaths to calm my mind and I asked myself what would I like to happen?

My answer?  I wanted the inspection to take place on the same day if at all possible.  I didn't want to have anymore sleepless nights worrying, and I psyched myself up to cope with the inspection on the pre-arranged day, and to be honest, I just wanted it over with.

Here’s what I did.

I emailed the inspector straight away, copying in their head of operations and said that although I understood the scheduled inspector was unable to make it for good reason, could someone else carry out the inspection as arranged?

There was no guarantee this would be possible, but I had to try.

And it worked. An alternative inspector was found and at 9:30 am my inspection started. And yes, I did pass.

If I had simply accepted that the inspection was unable to take place, I would have had to deal with a few more days of partly self-induced stress brought on by the unknown.  But, because I've spent time working on my people pleaser behaviour and making positive changes, I had the confidence to speak up.  The person who managed to arrange someone to step in, actually commented on this and said it was good that I had taken the initiative.

Speaking up for yourself may be one of the most intimidating things for you to do, especially if you are a lifelong people pleaser.

You may be used to keeping the peace, avoiding confrontation at all costs and allowing others to have their opinion while keeping yours hidden. This will only cause you frustration in the long run because you aren’t being honest with yourself or anyone else about how you really feel.

If you tend to lean more on the side of people pleasing, when you’re running your own business you can become afraid of ‘saying no’ for fear of losing clients, particularly in the current climate.

The good news is, speaking your mind doesn’t have to be difficult or scary. Here are some daily confidence boosters you can adopt that will have you speaking your mind in no time.

1. Prep Yourself: When you’re not used to speaking up, being prepped and completely sure of what you want to say ahead of time is key to your success. Try writing down all of your thoughts and practice what and how you’re going to say them. Really visualize who you are speaking to.

If it helps, try standing in front of a mirror (or even video yourself on your mobile phone) where you can check out your body language, facial expression as you speak, hand gestures, etc. When that moment of truth arrives, you’ll be fully prepared to speak your mind with confidence and certainty.

Ask a friend or a mentor to help you. As much as I hate role play, going over some scenarios with someone you trust can give you the confidence to pluck up the courage to do it in real life.

2. Positive Self-talk: Building the confidence to speak your mind starts from within. Get in the habit of being fully aware of how you speak to yourself throughout the day.

Is it mostly negative chatter in your head? Do you criticize and berate yourself for every little mistake? If you find that most of the things you say to yourself are negative, make every effort to flip the switch to positivity and self-love.

You may not be able to completely shut off those thoughts right at first, but by simply being aware, you can start yourself off on a more confident path that will have you freely sharing your opinions and ideas with anyone who will listen.

I found affirmation cards did the trick for me. These cards bring a smile to my face every day but also help my positive thinking.

3. Identify Your Insecurities: One of the best things you can do to get over your fear of speaking up is to figure out why you’re afraid in the first place. Dig deep and ask yourself the hard questions like, “What am I ashamed of or embarrassed by? Why am I so fearful of letting others know how I feel?”

Make a list of all your insecurities and worst-case scenarios. By doing this, you are bringing to light all the things that are holding you back. This won’t make all your insecurities disappear immediately, but it will give you a starting point to begin pushing past them.

4. Take Responsibility: A great way to boost your confidence is to remind yourself what you want and need, and then take responsibility for that. As people pleaser’s we often let others have the spotlight and neglect the things that make us truly happy.

Stop doing that!

It’s going to be so much easier to speak up in confidence when you believe your wants and needs are just as important as everyone else’s. The benefit of letting others know what’s on your mind will far outweigh the discomfort of standing centre stage for once.

In the next post I’ll be covering ways to say no with zero guilt.


👍 Want to determine if you have a Pushover Personality and how to fix it?👍

Take our Pushover Assessment to help you determine if you need to take a more assertive approach to life. 

Answer 10 questions to find out. Download HERE 


Further Reading

✔️ *HMRC – anti-money laundering supervision for accountancy providers

Speaking your mind doesn’t have to be an overwhelming, stressful task. Here are a couple of good books I’ve read and recommend to help you along the way.

 ✔️ **The Chimp Paradox: The Acclaimed Mind Management Programme to Help You Achieve Success, Confidence and Happiness Paperback by Dr Steve Peters


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