Accounting on a Shoestring Budget

My name is Rayanne Buchianico and I am the owner of ABC Solutions, LLC a small accounting firm in Pinellas Park, Florida. I began my accounting career as a receptionist in a CPA firm in February 1988. I worked there for a total of 13 years before leaving as a senior staff accountant in 2001. I relocated from the Philadelphia area to the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Shortly after arriving, I began working for a small CPA firm in St. Petersburg that reminded me a lot like the small firm I left in Philadelphia. I found myself at home there quickly. Two years later, the partners sold the firm to a large regional firm. My little family scattered and I found new work at another small firm in Palm Harbor, Florida.

Part of the agreement with the new firm was that I was responsible for finding my own accounts to help the firm grow. I had never sold any services before, I was simply an accountant who knows how to adjust a general ledger and prepare income taxes, what in the world did I know about selling? I learned how to network, talk to people about their business, understand and discuss their concerns, help with computer issues. For me, it was all about helping the client solve their problems. Before I knew it, I started to gather a small stream of clients.

One day, I was doing my monthly invoicing and noticed there were more charges in one particular account than there should be. After some investigation, I realized that my “billing rate” had increased by $10 per hour. The billing rate is the dollar amount that the clients are charged for our time. I said to the partner, “I notice my billing rate increased this month, when will my salary follow suit?” He chuckled and made some excuse that he had to pay the salary for the newest employee he hired and required extra income. That is the day I decided to start my own company.

I thought, why not go out on my own, reduce my billing rate and provide the same level of service to my clients that they were used to. Their bills go down, I work for myself and everyone is happy! One of my clients is a priest. He’s been a client since 2004. I called him and told him of my plans. If you can’t talk to a priest, who can you talk to, right? He sat on the phone with me for an hour talking me through my fears, concerns, goals, plans, etc. On June 5, 2005, with knees knocking as I walked down the hall, I quit my job in Palm Harbor.

Now, there are people who say you should have at least six months in savings before starting a business. I did not. I had four clients that came with me from the CPA firm and an empty savings account. I had a computer in my living room and a cell phone. The four clients brought in enough money each month to keep the mortgage paid and the lights on. I went to every networking event in town. I ordered $20 business cards from Staples because I didn’t want my cards to say VistaPrint.com on the back. I picked up IRS publications and studied for the Enrolled Agent exam (you cannot represent a client in front of the IRS, unless you’re enrolled.) I am also a Microsoft Certified Professional, offering computer and networking services. I took any client that came my way. Some of them were something less than desirable, but I wanted growth.

In February 2006, tax work started rolling in. The dog was chasing the cats all day, the phone was constantly ringing. I woke up at 5AM made coffee and sat down at my computer to respond to emails. I never left work. It was time to move out of the house.

The smartest thing I ever did was rent an office. It was a small, one-room office, but it was quiet and it was professional workspace. There is a large conference room for meeting with clients, and it was cheap. I hired an assistant, then I hired a bookkeeper. Three of us worked in a one room office, we were there for 2 years. The people kept changing, but the office did not. In March 2008, we moved to a suite down the hall, at least 4 times the size, and less than double the price.

I was not prepared for how difficult it was going to be to find employees that cared about the work. My experience has shown me that part time employees are interested in coming in, working the required number of hours to get a paycheck and going home. There was very little creativity, desire to do more, or interest in the company’s future. I had a revolving door during the first two years of hiring employees, people started calling me Murphy Brown. I have a good team now, but it was not easy to get here.

Two major events almost killed my business. The first one is taking on a project alone that required way too much of my time. I worked tirelessly in this project and it paid well. However, I had a number of clients get very angry with me and felt like I was unable to serve their needs. I am pretty good at damage control, so I salvaged the business, but it was an expensive lesson to learn. While I was out on the project, the day to day work was being neglected because I did not have the systems in place for the office to run itself. The moral of this story is to learn your limits of availability. You cannot be all things to all people. I was starry-eyed by the amount of money on that project that I did not see what it would do to my existing clients. Keep your eye on the ball!

Would-be killer #2: I had a trusted employee continually try to sabotage the company’s growth. I couldn’t understand why I was working 70 hours a week and not getting anywhere. Actually, I could understand it. I couldn’t bring in more work, because there was no one there capable of doing it, other than me. I decided that I cannot do it all, but when I tried to hire more competent people this worker would sabotage the new employee, or get them to quit. He was threatened by everyone, and I somehow didn’t see it until it was often too late. Moral of this story: if you think you cannot survive without this employee or that, ask yourself why and investigate. Things are not always as they seem!

The first five years in business have been a perpetual learning experience. I learned how to manage employees, seek new opportunities, creatively manage finances during slow months, and above all, I learned to thank my clients. They continue to support me, and I support them. I get telemarketing calls all the time and my standard response is, “Who does your accounting work? We prefer to give our business to clients.” The hardest part is learning how to delegate. I used to say, “Here, just give me it, I’ll do it myself.” And I did. I still bite my tongue from saying that today. It’s very hard knowing that I could have it done in 5 minutes, but they won’t learn anything by it, and then I’ll ALWAYS have to do it. I am investing the additional time it takes them now, so I won’t have to do it myself later.

Apparently, my lessons over the past five years are paying off. I have 3 wonderful and dependable employees. The first six months of this year shows our revenue increased 50% over the first six months of last year. We seek new opportunities every day and go after them.

Final notes to the new entrepreneur.

1. We are an accounting firm, I already understand income tax, sales tax, payroll tax, business entities and the like. If this is not your forte, find a professional to help you. This is one area where you cannot afford to err.

2. Next, network, network, network! There are plenty of networking opportunities everywhere: free ones, happy hours, lunches, expensive ones, cheap ones, and don’t forget the people who are already your friends. They would love to see you be successful! Your friends and family are your sneezers. Encourage them to tell their friends and their friends’ friends.

3. Learn to delegate! When you have someone to help you, let them help you. Don’t micromanage it, just let them do their job.

4. Set your goals each year and review them quarterly. How close are you coming? Are you neglecting an area? What can you do better?

Rayanne Buchianico
ABC Solutions, LLC
Pinellas Park, Florida

Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a Reply

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews
Richard Hooker on Jim Blasingame

Shoestring Fans and Followers


Categories

Archives

Business Book: How to Start a Business

Shoestring Book

Shoestring Venture in iTunes Store

Shoestring Venture - Steve Monas & Richard Hooker

Shoestring Kindle Version # 1 for e-Commerce, # 1 for Small Business, # 1 for Startup 99 cents

Business Book – Shoestring Venture: The Startup Bible

Shoestring Book Reviews

Shoestring Venture Reviews

Invesp landing page optimization
Powered By Invesp
Wikio - Top Blogs - Business