Career Story: Bookkeeper And And Small Business Consultant

Bookkeeper And And Small Business Consultant

Job Title: Owner Of Small Business

Type of Company: I run a bookkeeping business using QuickBooks software. I keep the financial books and provide human resources services and other administrative services to sixteen small businesses.

Education: BS, Finance, Boston College

Previous Experience: I worked as a secretary in a few offices, went back to school to study finance and then went to work for a multi-national bank and leasing company. I worked as the Marketing Coordinator for the leasing company, preparing proposals with the sales team and coordinating the various groups within the bank.

Job Tasks: I work for many firms but mostly focus on "professional services" firms. These are software companies, architectural partnerships, public relations firms and advertising companies which need help paying their bills and employees, invoicing their customers, sorting out health insurance information and taking care of basic human resources functions. They are busy running their companies so they don't have time to do the bookkeeping and other administrative chores that take a lot of time from a business owner's day.

At the moment, I work for 16 different companies. Some need a few hours a month and some need eight hours or more a week. For one company I might reconcile the bank statements and credit card statements and hand over the financial data to the accountant once a year. For another company, I might talk to the owner every day. My clients pay me because I make their lives easier and I make their businesses more profitable by having a clear understanding of every dime that comes into and goes out of the business. I run my business off-site,away from the businesses I'm working for. Some of my clients have never met me, but we talk on the phone and use the internet to communicate and I often work on their computers remotely. I set my own schedule and juggle everyone and my family so that everyone stays happy, which can mean working until midnight sometimes.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best and worst parts of my job are probably the same. I am my own boss so I don't answer to anyone, but that implies that the buck stops right here. I can't go on vacation and have someone do my work for me until I return. But I can decide that I'm not going to work today and no one will yell at me. Having said that, I have to make sure that I meet my deadlines and that requires application and good time management skills. Sometimes I work late into the night and get up at 5 to finish something in time... but I also meet my kids as they get off the school bus and I get to go on their trips and go into their classrooms. I work 7 days a week mostly, but at least I get to choose my hours.

The best part of my job is that I get to do different things each day. Sometimes I might not be in the mood to work on one client, so I choose a different one. My "to do" list is never finished. There is always something more to complete. And this is the job's real down side: it never ends. Mail comes every day but Sunday and I see the inboxes for clients filling up so, I feel the need to always do one more task. Working from home is great, but you have to be disciplined to do the work at work time and shut off the computer at the end of the day and go play with the family.

Job Tips:
1. Always put on a professional face. People trust me with their financial (and often personal) lives. I have to respect that trust and show I've earned it by the way I carry myself in my business life and my personal life.

2. I'm not an accountant, but I have a diverse financial background which allows me to be more valuable to my clients. Get small business experience so that you become a jack of all trades and learn what it means to run a small business. You can't learn it all from a book and you can't learn it from working for a huge company that gives you one task to do over and over again each day.

3. Learn the business from someone who's already doing it. I went to work for another bookkeeper when I decided to start this business and I still do things today which I learned from her. It's not rocket science, but there are very few people who do this job well. Be organized, professional and always willing to learn something new and you will be successful.

4. Learn to network and network everywhere. Word-of-mouth advertising is the most important advertising in my opinion. Someone singing your praises is worth 100 ads in a magazine or on TV. I joined a networking group in year 2 of my business and had to leave after 4 years because I couldn't take on any new business. I had become too successful, a very nice position to be in, especially in this economy.

5. Be prepared to do anything, as long as it's legal. Just because you have a college degree doesn't mean you're too important to take out the trash.

6. Treat everyone with respect. I have been a receptionist and you can tell a lot about a person when they meet someone as "unimportant" as a receptionist. They often have the ear of the president, so it never hurts to treat everyone as though they might provide your big break. It's also good manners.

Additional Thoughts: Be prepared to continue your studies to hone your skills. Someone can always teach you something you didn't know if you're humble enough to be open to it. Always know what you don't know and don't be afraid to say so. People are relying on your expertise and if you are guessing, there can be serious repercussions. I'm always suggesting my clients consult an accountant for a particular problem, or a lawyer, depending what the situation is, even sometimes when I know the answer but I know I'm not qualified. You become much more valuable when they trust you to say "No, I don't know, but I'll find out for you."

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