Asaneth French started her company, SOLV Maintenance and Repair on March 14th, 2020. We had the opportunity to interview her and learn more about her journey. She shared with us how she’s managed to run her business amidst a pandemic and some general advice for other people thinking about starting their own small business.

Tell Me About Your Company and What Inspired You to Start

We are a maintenance and repair company, and we cater to three demographics which are residential, multifamily communities, and commercial. We do anything from installing light fixtures to minor remodeling and plumbing. Typically we are placed in the handyman category, but I feel that we're a little more than that. My husband and I are co-owners, and we both have over 16 years of experience in the apartment industry. Previously, I was an apartment manager, and he was the lead maintenance supervisor. We knew a lot about budgets and why it’s important to repair something rather than replace and how to deal with vendors. Our goal was for our business to be different. We wanted to offer repair before replacement and emphasize we do everything we can to repair and keep the cost down and budgets down. I want to make sure people, especially in our community, are taken care of.

What Are Some of the Challenges You’ve Faced as a Small Business Owner?

Our company launched on March 14th of 2020. It was literally the week when everything shut down due to Covid. Besides the initial launching of a business in the midst of a pandemic struggle, it's been very challenging to compete with larger commercial companies that have a multi fleet. My husband and I have only one work truck. Establishing the rapport without compromising our quality has been very challenging because they just see us as a handy service, but we provide the same services that commercial companies do.

What’s the Best Thing About Being a Small Business Owner?

One thing is that we're able to accommodate the schedule of our customers because they range from residential to commercial. We can cater to that, personalizing our relationship with them, really getting to know them. I think the personalization of a small business has been awesome for me. That's why I like what I do. I like to make sure we're servicing our customers the way they need to be serviced.

What Prompted You to Start Using FINSYNC?

When I initially set up my account with Randolph-Books Federal Credit Union, they sent me a link and they asked me if I wanted more information on services such as payroll and bookkeeping and all that, and I said yes. Once I received the information, I visited FINSYNC’s website and saw which services were offered and the convenience of having my bank and everything in one was just awesome.

How Does Having FINSYNC Connected to the Accounts Mentioned Above Make Your Business Life Easier?

I am very thankful for the discount we receive due to the partnership with Randolf-Brooks FCU. It's awesome for my small business. I’ve never had an issue when I have to sync my account or with the transition between my bank. So far it has been flawless. It’s very convenient to be able to log in and have all of my information there in one place.

What Are the Biggest Benefits Your Business Has Experienced Using FINSYNC?

Thanks to FINSYNC I can offer my customers the option to pay with a credit card. This has been awesome. FINSYNC is also very user-friendly and saves me time. I know what I am doing and it’s easy to find what I am looking for. If I ever run into any issues, I go to the chat option or send an email and someone immediately answers. I’ve never had to wait more than 24 hours to get a response.

What Advice Do You Have for Those Who Are Thinking About Owning Their own Business?

The first year is always going to be hard. You have to put in elbow grease in order to achieve your goals. In my industry, I am literally climbing ladders, painting windows. So if you have that willingness to labor for your own business, you'll eventually reap what you're selling. Just hang in there!
We had the opportunity to interview Romeo Bagherinia, founder of Mr. Robert’s Handyman Services, a contracting company located in San Antonio, Texas.

Tell Me About Your Company and What Inspired You to Start

The name of our company comes from my father-in-law. He was always a huge inspiration to me. Back in 2011, we lost him due to cancer, and the stuff we do now is his trademark. He was always working outdoors building something. Even when he was diagnosed with cancer, you couldn’t stop him from working on something outside to help homeowners. Our goal at Mr. Robert’s Handyman Services is to help our clients upgrade their homes in a way that makes them feel comfortable, whether they want to make it their forever home or if they’re doing upgrades required before selling. My wife and I are both retired. We figured out a way to help folks without having to feel like they are getting ripped off at the same time. It’s something that we can feel accomplished about when they are proudly looking at their homes.

What Are Some of the Challenges You’ve Faced as a Small Business Owner?

I officially started this business 12 months ago, and along the way, we have learned so much from our mistakes. One of the biggest challenges when running your own business is making sure you have the right staff. It’s especially challenging in this industry because our main goal is to have happy customers and offer quality work. It’s a hard pill to swallow when a client is not happy with the work, and looking back at April 2020 there’s no way to go back and fix the previous jobs.  

What’s the Best Thing About Being a Small Business Owner?

I really think that because of my prior military experience, there's a lot of concepts that I try to bring to it that enable the employees we have to  feel good about working with us. I've got a couple of part-time employees and they tell me: “Wow man, my previous bosses are nothing like what you are,” and that makes me feel great. We're still a new company, so we're still working on quirks and now we are finally in a position to offer benefits. I can't offer complete 100% benefits just yet, but little things like that keep reminding me why I do what I do. One of the most rewarding things is to be able to have that kind of situation where I’m probably taking a bigger step than I should, but when it comes to helping people there is no bigger step. I would rather not make the money I think I can make if it means I can hire somebody to help me and they are not left in the dark.

What Prompted You to Start Using FINSYNC?

We previously used a competitor at a price point that was more expensive. They didn’t offer nearly as many functions as FINSYNC. We signed up for the service right when COVID hit, and we were unable to use the program, but they were still charging us the full amount. Due to the pandemic, money wasn’t coming in. That’s when we began doing more research. We opened a business checking account at Randolf-Brooks Federal Credit Union and FINSYNC was recommended. We haven’t had any complaints so far, and the user-friendliness has been very helpful.

What Are the Biggest Benefits Your Business has Experienced Using FINSYNC?

I would say that one of the biggest benefits is user-friendliness. Our first two transactions took a little longer because of being new to the system, but everything was explained. I never felt like I was left in the dark. My representative, Karima, she's awesome to work with. Any time I have questions she is there to answer them for me. Once you get started with FINSYNC, everything makes sense. One of the things I enjoy the most is having one constant person to work with versus having different people helping each time.

What Financial Institutions Do You Have Connected to FINSYNC?

Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.

How Does Having FINSYNC Connected to the Accounts Mentioned Above Make Your Business Life Easier?

One of the biggest advantages of having Randolf-Brooks Federal Credit Union connected to FINSYNC is how easy it is to track things. When a client pays a deposit, we see the tracking from the moment they pay their deposit, when materials are purchased, producing invoices, and then clearing. I am also very impressed with the chart flow.

What Advice Do You Have for Those Who Are Thinking About Owning Their Own Business?

Set yourself a goal that’s reachable. For example, my reachable goal was that I wanted to be doing this business for 12 months and see all of the mistakes we made. No matter how small the mistakes were, for example forgetting to put gas in the truck or not putting air in a tire. I wanted to examine each mistake, and I wouldn’t say to scrutinize it, but to capitalize on that error and find the best solution. That’s the best advice I can usually give somebody that after 12 months of bumps and bruises, you know you can continue. I strongly recommend looking into your business in a 12-month aspect.

Anything Else You Would Like to Share with Other Potential and Actual Small Business Owners?

You can do it! There are so many resources in today’s society. Bless millennials and the 21st century! There are way too many resources out there to feel like you can’t do it. Don't’ be afraid and give yourself realistic goals to achieve. As a fellow entrepreneur, if you find yourself needing help or have any questions, I am here to help.
We had the opportunity to interview Isaiah Grant from Dream Fitness Client Academy. Read about his journey as a small business owner and how his past health issues inspired him to create the thriving business he has today.

Tell Me About Dream Fitness Client Academy

We have been in business for four years. Initially, we began as a digital agency; working with local businesses and with online coaches from a broader perspective. Fast forward, we decided to go very niche in regards to working with fitness and health coaches. We have a 13-week implementation program to show the coaches how to go from being a person who has a hobby and turn that hobby into an online coaching business. A business that enables them to have time and financial freedom. Our motto is helping folks get off the coaching hamster wheel so that they can ultimately have the freedom to work when they want to work. We leverage systems, people, and different products and processes to help them actually scale and drive more impact to their audience.

What Inspired You to Start Dream Fitness Academy?

I was born and raised in a single-family household where my mom was personally disabled. At an early age, I had to be resourceful and learn how to build meaningful relationships with people and ultimately learn how to execute and get things done. From an early age, I was an entrepreneur. As you can imagine, in middle school, I sold everything: pencils, erasers, CDs. Ultimately, fast forward to eighth grade, I was sitting in my science class, and I was doing a year-long project on diabetes and ironically was diagnosed with diabetes during that class year. This was a pivotal stage in my life. I decided to get my own health and wellness coach, who helped me get rid of diabetes and helped me see the importance of being physically, mentally, and spiritually fit. After spending 5 years in the corporate world, I was ready to become a business owner. I decided to leave and start my own agency. I was inspired to impact other financial or fitness and health coaches, like the individual who impacted me in eighth grade.

What’s the Best Thing About Being a Small Business Owner?

I think it's the discovery and the process of developing as a leader and realizing that you're your biggest bottleneck to your business. The more you can fire yourself from each of the different core departments like marketing, sales fulfillment in your business, the bigger you'll grow. So for me, it's been a lot of the personal development associated with being a small business owner that has been the most enjoyable. From outside the business, the impact of being able to see these fitness and health coaches grow tremendously in terms of being a business owner. That drives me to be even more of a leader for my company and for the people we serve.

What are Some of the Challenges You’ve Faced as a Small Business Owner?

A huge part of my company is systems. We live and die by systems and numbers. Prior to this year, we weren't crystal clear in regards to our numbers and our KPIs. We've become more clear on our value chain which is marketing, sales, and fulfillment. We've identified the top KPIs in each of those buckets. One of the huge parts was figuring out the right people who can manage those systems. It was hard for them to figure out what those numbers were without understanding the true health of our finances. That was one of the reasons why we ended up with FINSYNC. We saw that you guys offer cash flow and a concierge service that would help us with the people planning of our business. It has been super easy working with you guys to get a bookkeeper who is almost playing a CFO role for us at a fraction of the cost and investment. She's helping us with budgeting, forecasting, and also seeing our actuals for cash flow expenses.

What Prompted Dream Fitness Client Academy to Start Using FINSYNC?

During the earlier days of COVID, we were in the process of applying for several different loans and grants and that’s when FINSYNC was recommended to us as a great financial tool. FINSYNC gives you clarity around your cash flow, expenses, accounts receivable, accounts payable, and also helps with managing your books. One of the things that stood out to me was the ongoing support.

Did you Consider Any Other Software Prior to FINSYNC?

We were previously using Quickbooks but found it to be very challenging. Their software was not as user friendly as FINSYNC. At first, it was a helpful tool, but it didn’t necessarily stay up-to-date. We constantly had to sync our accounts.

What are the Biggest Benefits Dream Fitness Client Academy Has Experienced Using FINSYNC?

We have been able to get more clarity around our numbers and most importantly the user-friendliness of the tool. Getting rid of the accounting jargon has been great and the ongoing support. I would say the value that's given at the price is great. In addition, having our bookkeeper, who is serving as not only a bookkeeper but also almost like a CFO, the investment into her, and into our business is very reasonable. With FINSYNC, you see the value and the investment are completely reasonable.

What Advice do you Have for Those Who are Thinking About Owning Their Own Business?

  1. Fall in love with creating systems, they help you replicate yourself and delegate out to other people who are just as good as you are.
  2. Become in love with the numbers. Numbers are important to learn about the growth and bottlenecks in your company.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. When searching for a new tool for our cash flow management, I asked FINSYNC for a demo. I was not sure what to expect, but it turned out to be an amazing tool with an amazing support group.
  4. Invest in yourself constantly, so that you can continue to become a better leader, meet people, lead systems, and impact the overall growth of your company.
We had the chance to connect with Mike Fuller, who spoke to us about his journey to business ownership and his passion for helping others become successful in their careers. His company, Elite Source Solutions is a recruiting company founded in 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee and Tampa, Florida. They provide talent ranging from professional services to technical staffing or IT recruiting services. As the business has grown, their focus has become the Southeast while they periodically work in other markets as well. Mike was kind enough to share some thoughts with us about starting and running a business:

What inspired you to start Elite Source Solutions?

I always had a passion throughout my career to start something of my own. Previously, I worked for another staffing company. After 12 years of working there, I felt like I was ready to take on a new challenge. I was ready for something new, and I knew I wanted to build something that I could be proud of.

What are some of the biggest rewards of running a small business?

It is extremely rewarding to watch people grow in their careers. I enjoy being able to mentor and directly help and watch others achieve success. Several of our recruiters and entry-level positions come right out of school with no prior work experience other than their degree. Watching them grow and achieve success and maturity in business is by far the most rewarding thing. Watching the company grow is so rewarding as well. It is incredible to see how we started with nothing and as time has gone by, we have gone from crawling to walking and hopefully soon one day we will be running. It is so satisfying to see that.

What are some of the biggest challenges of owning your own business?

You never know what your day is going to hold. When you start off you are doing a little bit of everything. At first, I was running the business on my own. I found myself doing everything from accounting to sales. It is also challenging when you have no revenue coming in at first. There is always so much going on. You really have to learn to prioritize and be good at time management in order to run a successful business.

Why did you choose to start working with FINSYNC?

FINSYNC was the option that had the best value for the cost. I looked at several other platforms and FINSYNC offered the best overall value. If I ever had an issue with anything, I knew that I could call and a real person would answer the phone and could help me through it. The quality you get for the cost was a no-brainer. I would recommend FINSYNC to any small business.

Has FINSYNC made running your business easier?

It definitely has. A lot of small things that are needed are easily accessible. For example, when I need certain documents, I know where to find them. The reporting, invoicing, and payroll is all located in one place. We are able to gather reports quickly and efficiently. The software is very user-friendly and easy to navigate.

What advice do you have for those who are thinking about owning their own business?

Nowadays it's common culture for people to come directly out of college and want to become an entrepreneur and start their own business right away. I think this is great, but I feel like learning is so important. If you have the opportunity to work for another company and really get to know the business and work your way from the bottom up, I think that is very valuable. This is a great way for you to learn what to do and what not to do once you build your own business. Learning about challenges and how to overcome them is so valuable. Success takes time.
[caption id="attachment_9660" align="alignright" width="300"]Spotlight on Small Business Owners: Darren Smith, Traipse Darren Smith[/caption] Darren Smith spoke to us about finding the right balance of visibility and control over accounting and admin tasks while staying focused on running his startup, Traipse. By FINSYNC The mobile app startup Traipse guides users through streetscapes, historic landmarks, and locally owned businesses while challenging them with scavenger hunts and puzzles. When Founder and CEO Darren Smith aimed to solve the puzzle of accounting and payroll, he found a guide in FINSYNC. We spoke with Darren Smith about how Traipse got started, the challenges and successes he’s faced as a startup, and how he’s found the right balance of oversight for his accounting.

What inspired you to start Traipse?

I started with a background in urban planning and have a passion for the historic business district as an important piece of the economy, and of our society. That was the underlying thing for me. Then, for about ten years the Washington Post ran an annual event called The Washington Post Puzzle Hunt which brought thousands of people downtown to solve puzzles they had set up. Before that, my hometown radio station used to do a treasure hunt where clues would be posted in local stores. So the idea was a combination of those things — a way to engage local merchants and to get people out exploring and learning about different places, whether or not they live there. That got my brain thinking about how something like that could be built to run at any time. I set out to create an app that lets people in a neighborhood or business district solve puzzles built around things that are always there: signs, statues, etc. 

What are some of the biggest rewards of running a small business?

The flexibility is nice. There are things that I never anticipated in terms of what it does to your psyche. To always be thinking that you need to be working to build the business. But, particularly early on, for the first years of my son’s life, I was able to be home with him three days a week and work on the early stages of the business. That was great to be able to do that. In terms of the business itself, it’s really cool to create something and then hear from people who have used and enjoyed it. We hear from people who have walked through an area hundreds of times and never knew or noticed something. Or to hear from local merchants who are able to increase business from the added foot traffic. That piece is unique to our business and makes it really rewarding.

What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a startup? 

For someone who had not done this before, and didn’t come from a business background, there was a lot of learning I had to do and mistakes that were made. Things that if I had known six months ago I could have avoided. But there’s no instruction manual. Some of the challenges related to capital, especially with a business like this where you’re trying to build a user base while making sales. Our model is we have contracts with local tourism and business development organizations. So we’re trying to please a lot of people. Sometimes the things you need to do to build a user base versus a client base can make it difficult because you are allocating resources to two different areas. It is the challenge of a B2B2C business. 

Why did you choose to start working with FINSYNC?

We’ve been FINSYNC users for a long time. I hadn’t done really good accounting of the business to that point and I was about to start getting everything into Quickbooks. When I heard about FINSYNC, it sounded like it was more tailored to the needs of a startup and had other tools that no other provider had at that point. It was very appealing to me. It seems easier to manage as a business with investors and various revenue streams. We haven’t really taken advantage of a lot of the FINSYNC features. I hope to be able to do that in the future. We’re currently laying the foundation needed to do some of those more advanced things. I’m looking forward to getting to the point where we’re able to take advantage of the different possibilities.

What challenges has FINSYNC helped solve?

I feel like it’s the right place on that spectrum of hands-on and hands-off. It is the most affordable solution that I know of that allows me to manage accounting, payroll and other administrative tasks that as a startup founder I don’t want to be dealing with. I also don’t want it to be a black box that I’m not aware of at all times. To me that was the biggest advantage.

Do you have any advice for other small business owners?

You need to figure out early on where on that spectrum you want to be. Also where you can be in terms of how much you want to manage your own accounting and how much you want to or are able to turn that over to someone else. Most startups can’t afford to pay a full-service accounting firm to do all this stuff for them. FINSYNC allows a founder to affordably turn some of that over to other people who know what they’re doing. It allows you to have some automated processes, synced accounts and other features that allow you to generate reports very easily and create the types of things you need as a founder. My advice is to figure out early on how you’re going to address your accounting and payroll as a business. Then, figure out what tools are out there. Focus not just on the functionality they offer, but where on that continuum they allow you to be to suit your needs.
[caption id="attachment_8543" align="alignright" width="214"]Spotlight on FINSYNC Specialist: Neisha Casey, CPA Neisha Casey, CPA[/caption] As an independent CPA with a zeal for deploying her skillset in diverse ways. Neisha Casey brings a holistic approach to helping small businesses achieve success through FINSYNC’s Services Network. By FINSYNC Neisha Casey had already been working for years as a CPA. She began to sense that her need to focus exclusively within a niche industry might be making her professionally unmarketable outside of that particular niche.  As a lifetime learner who thrives on variety and acquiring new skills, she decided it was time to turn her focus to other opportunities. Ones that would allow her to leverage her skills while gaining exposure to new industries and perspectives.   We had the opportunity to catch up with Neisha to discuss her journey. Also, get some takeaways for small businesses and independent contractors. 

How did you decide to become an independent CPA? 

I decided to become an independent CPA because of the variety of work and flexibility. I enjoy variety in my work and the opportunity to gain new skills and exposure. FINSYNC affords me the opportunity to take on clients within various industries. Also, independently manage the workload to meet the client’s needs. Flexibility is also a major advantage, especially because I have decided to further my education. Although my new career path pivots into analytics, I am able to continue to utilize my accounting background and expand my skills. 

What are the benefits and rewards of being an independent financial professional? 

The benefits of being an independent professional are the flexibility and exposure to different clients and industries. When I’ve taken on different roles in my profession, it was always with the intent to diversify my skillset: What can I learn from this opportunity that I did not necessarily learn in my last opportunity? Sometimes, the best way to diversify a skillset is to gain exposure to multiple industries. The added benefit of working independently is flexibility. I set my own schedule to complete work within the specific timeline communicated. 

What’s the most challenging part about being an independent contractor? 

Sometimes communication can “get lost” in the context of an email or text, and even by phone. Verbal and nonverbal cues play a major part in communication. It becomes very important to become cognizant of every written dialogue. Also, provide clarification if communication is even the slightest bit unclear.  

What inspired you to join FINSYNC’s services network? How has joining FINSYNC impacted your career and career trajectory? 

I was still working as an accountant when I was contacted by a FINSYNC representative to discuss a remote opportunity. My first thought was: How am I going to be able to manage the workload of two jobs? After giving it more thought, I decided that now was the right time to pursue career interests while also continuing to hone my skills as an accountant. My long-term career trajectory combines both my finance and accounting backgrounds as an entrepreneur. Working with the FINSYNC Service Network allows me the opportunity to balance my goals while also making the full breadth of my skills available to clients.  

What company were you paired with, and what do you do for them?

My first client through FINSYNC’s network is a prominent photographer based in the Atlanta area. Therefore, I handle their bookkeeping and reporting.

What’s your working relationship like with the client?

I like to keep it professional, but also personable. We keep the lines of communication open and work together to meet deadlines. 

How does FINSYNC’s platform make your job as an accountant easier?

FINSYNC’s platform is very user-friendly. As a result, it helps to streamline and optimize efficiency for all parties involved. 

Would you recommend FINSYNC’s virtual assistance network to other independent skilled professionals?

Absolutely, yes. I highly recommend FINSYNC’s virtual assistance network to other skilled professionals. The entire FINSYNC team is very interactive and makes certain each engagement runs as smoothly as possible. I’ve never met a more supportive and encouraging work group. In addition to flexibility and diverse work opportunities, the FINSYNC team is what makes the network unique. Allowing for an even more rewarding experience.

Any advice for other independent professionals out there? 

If you desire variety and flexibility within a supportive virtual team environment, look no further than FINSYNC. 
Kathy Pieper spoke with us about successfully navigating her way through the rewarding journey of small business ownership with a little help from her credit union, RBFCU, and FINSYNC’s all-in-one payments platform. By FINSYNC Spotlight on Small Business Owners: Kathy Pieper, Learning Cycle Tutors 1 It’s been a busy year for Kathy Pieper, who took over Learning Cycle Tutors on the first day of the new year. Mike Shenk originally founded the business in 2015. He had recently retired from active military duty. Mike was considering moving his life in a different direction around the same time that Kathy relocated to central Texas from the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The stars seemed to align as the two began discussions, and Kathy officially took over the business on January 1st. She was first introduced to FINSYNC by Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU). About the same time she was considering this exciting new venture. RBFCU started to offer it’s 60,000+ business members access to FINSYNC’s cash flow management platform last year to support the credit union’s ongoing mission to help their business clients succeed through better financial management.  As Kathy stepped into her new role running Learning Cycle Tutors, she found that being able to access her RBFCU account information through the FINSYNC platform helped simplify the process of taking over an existing business, and set the course for future success.  We sat down with Kathy to learn about her new venture with Learning Cycle Tutors, and to find out how FINSYNC and RBFCU helped make the challenging journey a little bit easier.

What are some of the biggest rewards of running Learning Cycle Tutors, and owning a small business? 

I’m passionate about the work I do with my students. I love the one-on-one relationships I build with my students and their families. And nothing compares to being your own boss!   And the biggest challenges? Health insurance!

How were you first introduced to FINSYNC?

When I set up my business account with RBFCU. They mentioned that this service was available. In the past, I've used various versions of Quickbooks. I never felt completely satisfied. Once learning about the benefits of FINSYNC, it only made sense to try it! I've been very satisfied and the learning curve has been well worth it! 

How has FINSYNC helped you get up and running with Learning Cycle Tutors?

FINSYNC has been a wonderful and affordable alternative to other accounting packages out there. It’s easy to use and the customer service is outstanding! I’ve found the software very easy to learn. In addition, whenever I have a question Nathan has been readily available to help me figure things out! 

What FINSYNC features have benefited your business the most? 

I like the all-in-one model, the ability to accept many different methods of payment from a single platform, and that everything is synced from my bank account. 

Has it been helpful to access your RBFCU account through FINSYNC’s platform? 

Yes, that was one of the strong selling points for me — that I can access my account information through FINSYNC. Working with RBFCU and FINSYNC together has made it much easier for me to get Learning Cycle Tutors off the ground! Thank you! If you’re an RBFCU business member, consider signing up for Business Elite Pro. It includes FINSYNC and other benefits to help you grow your business.

A master of many trades who loves to invest time in her clients. Jennifer Brenner understands what it takes to help small businesses succeed through FINSYNC’s Services Network.

By FINSYNC 

Jennifer Brenner’s path to bookkeeping genius wasn’t necessarily a straightforward one. A former social worker looking for a way to be independent yet still help “save the world” in some regard, she was taken under the wing of a CPA (Certified Public Accountant) friend to learn the ins and outs of bookkeeping, and the rest is history. 

The Portland, OR native (who runs a non-profit in her spare time) named her company after her love for tattoos as well as the fact that black ink in a ledger historically meant that your money was in good standing.

We had a chance to chat with Jennifer to learn more about her journey and get her advice for small businesses.

Spotlight on FINSYNC Specialist: Jennifer Brenner, Bookkeeper  

How did you become an independent bookkeeper? 

I used to be a social worker, and I was looking for a way out of that industry into a different one. My friend, who was a CPA, offered to teach me bookkeeping. I started doing that with her part-time, then went to a bookkeeping school, and then I went to accounting school and got an accounting degree. 

I was looking for a way to be independent but also still help people because as a social worker we’re always out to save the world. This was a way for me to still be helpful, but also be the master of my own time and earn a living wage.

Once I started fully focusing on bookkeeping, by word of mouth my clients would tell other people. Other people would begin to contact me and before long you’re running a business

What are some of the biggest rewards and challenges of being an independent contractor?

The biggest reward is being the master of my own time. I put in what I get out. It’s very much my energy. I know where it’s going and what I’m supporting, and it’s very fulfilling running my own business. 

The challenges are always the variation in cash flow and managing that. It’s not like a wage job where you are certain you're getting a specific number of hours. It's variable. Also, with the nature of what I do, I'm by myself a lot and that's always a little difficult. You have to be very disciplined with your time and also managing your money. 

What has it been like to partner with FINSYNC through the Services Network? 

I really enjoy the people at FINSYNC that I’ve spoken with. The team is very supportive, very responsive. They have all the tools in place to help facilitate an easy relationship. They are there throughout my engagements to make sure everything's going well.

What advice do you have for small business owners out there?  

Create your own business accounts that are just for the business, and don’t use them for personal use. Generally, every business either survives or fails within the first three years. Budgets for your business are key: your projected cash flows, your projected expenses. 

And don’t give up. It’s going to be hard running a business, but it’s also very rewarding. If it’s something you really want to do and it’s what you want for your career, make sure you really want to do it because you’ll be doing a lot of it. 

How do you help small business owners who are just getting started?  

By spending time educating new business about which business structure they have, whether they’re single-member LLC or S corporation or C corporation. I cover what the tax ramifications are and how they affect personal tax returns. It's important for me to look at things from the umbrella of taxes because I came from preparing taxes and that’s usually a big concern for people. 

I also spend time educating them on estimated taxes for the business including S corporations, and their personal returns, and then running payroll for themselves. What it is to have a salary, depending on what kind of corporation they are, what kind of salary they can pay themselves but maintain the greatest tax benefit. 

I do a lot of educating on what it means to have a set of books, such as help them interpret a profit or loss, balance sheet, or a statement of cash flows. 

What’s the biggest accounting mistake you've seen a small business make? 

The biggest mistake that I’ve seen is business owners trying to do their own books. Doing your own books is the quickest way to create a mess. Especially if you don’t have a background or aren’t well taught.

My advice is: The skill that you start your business with is the thing that makes you money. Your best use of time is to use those skills to make your money versus trying to learn the whole accounting theory of debits and credits and trying to do your own books. It’s worth the money to pay someone well to do your books. 

If you don't value your bookkeeper, your business is going to suffer. I have clients who every year insist on doing their own books. Every year I end up having to charge them a lot to clean up their books.  

What should small business owners know about working with their bookkeepers? 

I would encourage people to communicate with their accountant or bookkeeper. When they ask you for something, like documentation, or say “Hey, we have to get this in by this deadline,” respond appropriately. 

Many people tend to stick their head in the sand when it comes to the financial part of things. Responding to requests from your bookkeeper or accountant is very helpful for the relationship. 

When somebody has a bunch of clients and they have to ask you 20 times for something, they're going to stop asking after a while and then your accounting will suffer. Do it as soon as possible.

What bookkeeping tasks should small business owners tackle now so they aren’t scrambling later in the year?

If they’re a new business, getting their books and bank accounts set up. If they’re an existing business, in terms of bookkeeping, it’s important to create their budget for the year. 

For me, January is the ending of the year before, but it’s also the beginning of the new year. If you're a single-member LLC or you're a partnership and you’re wanting to move to S corporation or you’re wanting to create a corporation, January is the time to do that. It's good practice to get going at the beginning of the year.

Tara Rhodes didn’t exactly choose the beauty business. It definitely chose her, and has been enriching her life ever since. By FINSYNC Tara Rhodes had been a proud small business owner of her own salon for 15 years when she remembered making a promise to a friend. Back in beauty school, she and Tanya Rollins had agreed to partner on a beauty service business, and Tara realized it was time to expand her empire.  Founding Hello Lovely Hair, Skin & Nails LLC, based out of Live Oak, Texas, wasn’t an easy decision for Tara. In fact, she admitted it was a little scary. “It was really taking a big leap of faith, to go big or go home,” she explained. With a lot of hard work, the support of family and friends, and trust in the unknown, it ended up being the ultimate investment — both personally and professionally. 

We had the opportunity to touch base with Tara to find out the amazing reason why she chose the beauty industry, the importance of what she does, and how the decision to get  FINSYNC through her credit union, RBFCU, has been pivotal in her business’ success.

How did you get into your field and end up owning your own business? 

My godmother, who was an aunt of mine, did hair and she got cancer. And I promised her that I would open a shop for her. Thank God that worked out, because at the time I was 12, and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. What if I was terrible at it? What if I didn’t like it? So God definitely had his hand on it because it ended up working out and it’s been the most fulfilling thing I could ever imagine.

How has owning your own business affected you on a personal level?

I'm super passionate about the relationships that I’ve built. This may sound weird, but hair and all the beauty services ended up being a much smaller part of what I love about my job. It’s really been about building the relationships that have really helped shape my life.  For instance, one of my business partners started out as my client. A former client is now my sister-in-law and I have nephews as a result of that. I feel like this career path and the direction it’s gone has really molded and shaped and enriched my life in a lot of ways, both personally and professionally. Even when I’ve struggled, it’s been so cool to see how it’s all come together.

What are some of the biggest rewards of owning your own business? 

I think the biggest thing for us is to build each other up as women. It’s the next stage of our lives and our careers, and we’re really trying to feel empowered and build each other up to show what we're capable of. We love being able to offer more to our clients and expand the business, and it just feels really good to bite off this much and prove to ourselves that we can do it.

What are some of the challenges of owning your own business? 

The biggest thing is there's no definite. We want to say: ‘We need to bring in this much money by next month,’ but the industry ebbs and flows. So the unknown of planning can be very difficult because some things are out of our control.  When you're starting a business, the first few months are kind of like jumping off a cliff; you've already bitten it off and you're just hoping it comes to fruition. You're hoping you’re going to make that rent payment, or that those clients are going to show up. I would definitely say it’s the unknown.

How has FINSYNC helped you with some of these challenges on the financial side of things? 

FINSYNC has definitely helped us streamline our payroll. That was a huge worry of ours — figuring out the percentages and the dates. It was a huge weight off of our shoulders to find a company that was super open to helping us with any questions we had, and went above and beyond whenever we had any issues. So for sure, it's made it easier having one less thing to worry about. We don't have to worry about payroll now because we feel like we're in good hands.

Did you consider any other software prior to FINSYNC?

Initially we were going to use the payroll that came with the scheduling we had, and then it turns out that it didn't provide half of what it advertised that it did. So we feel really positive about FINSYNC, which came in and kind of saved the day!

What advice do you have for those looking to start their own business? 

I would definitely ask other business owners what has worked and what hasn't, and then really do your research about reputable companies that are going to take care of you. I think the advice of other business owners is priceless, but also just do your research about who provides what and who's really going to make that happen. And FINSYNC has helped with that for sure. 
Independent accountant Mark Wright found a remote position that fits his schedule and lifestyle through FINSYNC’s virtual assistance network. By FINSYNC Spotlight on FINSYNC Specialists: Mark Wright, Accountant 8 For small businesses looking for help with their accounting, bookkeeping, human capital management, financial analysis or corporate strategy, independent contractors can be a fantastic choice for a cost-effective and experienced expert. The FINSYNC virtual assistance network has a carefully vetted selection of professionals looking to help businesses. 

One such independent skilled professional is Mark Wright, an accountant who was paired with a FINSYNC client to serve as their cloud controller. Finding an accountant like Mark can be difficult, especially when he spends time traveling across the country in an RV with his wife. Luckily, every campground they stop at has Wi-Fi, so he’s always available remotely. 

How did you decide to become an independent professional?

I've been doing this for 34 years now and probably about a third of the time I've been working as an independent professional. Right out of college, I got a job as a controller for a government contracting company. It's very extensive when you deal with the government as far as what they're looking for, and we had to do a very in depth audit every year.  The CPA that did the audit loved the information I gave him because it was clean, and he didn’t really have to do anything with it. He was a CPA that had hundreds of clients all over the world and he told me, “if you ever want to go out on your own, there's a lot of incompetence in the accounting field, and I can give you a lot of work.”

What are the benefits of being an independent contractor? 

Obviously, flexibility is the biggest thing. You can move things around if you need to. If you need to go away on vacation, you can basically do it from everywhere. Now there's Wi-Fi everywhere, so there's a lot of flexibility. You’re working on your own, and so you know … you take care of your own stuff, and I like that. 

What's the most challenging part about being an independent contractor?

I'm a people person so sometimes it's hard to not get out. You're not in an office every day, you're not around a lot of people. I think anybody working from home, no matter what field they work in, has to find a way to be active in the community and to get outside. Do things like exercise to balance it out, because otherwise you would never leave your house.

How did you learn about FINSYNC's virtual assistance network?

Searching on Indeed, looking to pick up some more remote hours, and I saw an ad of theirs. I responded and had to go through the process of interviewing, getting certified with their proprietary software and getting familiar with it.  I went through that and they had a client in Dallas, Texas that they thought would be a good match. Finally, I interviewed with them, and I've been working for them ever since.

What do you do for Peisner Johnson?

Pretty much everything — accounts payable, accounts receivable, handling all the general ledger, payroll — I'm really their one-person accounting team, soup to nuts. One issue I deal with is billings. They have a lot of monthly billings they do based on tax returns, and a lot of subscription billings. I’m not going to say it's complicated, but there are a lot of intricacies.

What's your working relationship like with the company?

I think it's been good. They would have to testify on that, but I think it’s good that the former controller, Mike, did stuff online with me to make a smooth transition. There have been a few little things that came up that I wouldn’t know about, and the people there have been great and very helpful. It’s been a great experience so far.

Would you recommend FINSYNC's virtual assistance network to other independent skilled professionals? 

I definitely would, especially if they’re looking to do something where it’s totally remote. The whole platform allows you to do everything on a remote basis. I've been doing this for 34 years and there are some clients I’ve worked for directly as an employee where there was just no way you could do the job remotely from a logistical standpoint.  If you’re a client that has the ability to work with professionals remotely, the FINSYNC platform provides cost savings and efficiencies. Everything is cloud-based and backed up. All documents are saved online — invoicing, bills, anything — so it’s all paperless and saved.  The support from FINSYNC has also been tremendous. They really stand behind you and make sure that there's no issue with a client or with anything you're doing. If you do need help, they’re available to talk to and their response is excellent.

Any advice for other independent professionals out there?

Keep looking. It's hard to find the perfect match, but FINSYNC can help. Remote work for accountants is definitely becoming more acceptable, and I think over the next five to ten years it's really going to blow up. A company can save a lot of money using a remote employee, and if they’re open minded, it can really work well. Anyone that wants to get into this and go remote needs to just keep plugging away.
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