We've got another bonus episode to help inspire you to build your business! This is a Bookkeeper Spotlight interview with one of our Accelerator Students, Jen Fischer.
You can connect with her on Instagram: @numbersbyjen
Thanks for listening. For more information about the Ambitious Bookkeeper Podcast or interest in our programs or mentoring visit our resources below:
Visit our website: ambitiousbookkeeper.com
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Connect on Instagram: instagram.com/ambitiousbookkeeper
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Connect of Facebook: Facebook.com/serenashoupcpa
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[00:00:28] Serena: So hello, and thank you for joining us. This is going to be a pretty short and sweet little spotlight.
[00:00:34] I have Jen Fisher here with me today. She has gone through the bookkeeping business accelerator. And I thought it would be really fun to have her come on and share her business journey with you all and help inspire you to continue taking action and make your dream a reality. And if you don't follow Jen on Instagram, if you're on Instagram, definitely follow her.
[00:01:01] @numbersbyj en, right. That was a tongue twister for some reason. Thank you for joining us. So I'm just gonna jump right into asking Jen some questions and let her kind of share her story with you all. So, Jen. Where were you at, like in your process of deciding to start a business or had you started a business when you started going through BBA?
[00:01:26] Jen: So I unofficially started back in December of 2019. It was the holidays and my sister owns a business. She has a logo, a brand design business, and she was panicking because they ended the year was coming and she needed help with her books. And so she asked me to work on them for her. So she invited me, gave me a QuickBooks account, essentially. And I was poking around doing her books for her and got her all cut up for the year. And I thought, oh, this is kind of fun. So it was kind of my like late night glass of wine with Seinfeld on, in the background.
[00:02:03] And I'll just do this for her. And then fast forward to March 20, 20, everything started shutting down. We were working from home and found ourselves with extra time. On our hands, my husband and I, and so we said, Hey, what if you did this some more now with the the commuting time that you're not.
[00:02:27] I'm going to spend like you've got an extra 10, 15 hours available in the week. Make a couple bucks, pay our student loan payments every month with it. And so then I created an Instagram account with the help of my sister who does creative stuff that I don't do. And so it became a little like side gig for a while.
[00:02:47] And then Yeah, I think the business became official in June, 2020, and then, you know, they called us all back to the office and I said, I don't really like being back at the office. I lost all of my free time to this fun side thing. And so our family, we made the decision that I would try to ramp the business up at the same time as I kind of like slowly back out of my day job. So that was, I finished working there last week, but I gave them notice in December and I joined BBA. I don't even know when I, when I joined, I was just trying to think, I think it was maybe like September?
[00:03:27] Serena: It must have been around September, maybe October toward being in the last quarter of the year, maybe. Yeah.
[00:03:34] Jen: Yeah. So that's about when my husband, I made the decision and so I was kind of like in the background. You know, build the business and set the foundation with processes and everything and, ramp things up a bit before actually giving my notice in case they said. Okay, just go ahead and leave today. Yeah.
[00:03:51] Serena: It's always a risk right. So smart.
[00:03:54] Jen: Does that answer your question? Sorry.
[00:03:56] Serena: Yeah, that's really awesome. And so I want to kind of ask you about how that transition worked with corporate, because I feel like that's a big question mark, for a lot of people. And this is something that people have asked me, like, how should I handle this? And I'm always for like, If you have a good relationship with your boss or whoever is on your team, that you kind of report to like being transparent with them about your goals and stuff like that. But also like, even if you don't, there's always the option of like asking to get your hours cut back. So, I'm curious how you structured that whole transition. Like, what was the conversation like? And did you end up cutting your hours back or just saying this is when I'm completely done and then no more.
[00:04:46] Jen: So I first back in September actually, asked them, if I could go part-time. I basically went into my boss's office and I said, look, I feel like I'm not as good as I would like to be at being a mom, being wife, being an employee. And one of them has to give, and this one, just to be honest is the least important of the three. So I said, I cannot work full-time anymore. I just can't do it. And he, he said, I understand He, I think I got a little bit lucky. He's very. He's very traditional. His wife was pregnant at the time, so he was kind of like going through similar conversations in his household too.
[00:05:27] So he was very open to our, our company had never done part-time with anybody. So he was. Like form and agreement. And so he asked, you know, can you give me a little bit of time to figure this out? And so we wrote up like wrote up a formal document. I signed it. I went from 40 hours a week down to 30. I wanted it to be more like 25 and he wanted it to be like 34. So--
[00:05:51] Serena: There's no difference there.
[00:05:52] Jen: I know. So we met at 30, which allowed me to keep benefits and whatnot. Cause that's like the, yeah, the threshold. Yeah. So that's what I did. And to be honest, it was basically full-time stress with less pay pretty much.
[00:06:10] Serena: Were you previously on a salary before you went to part-time?
[00:06:17] Jen: Yeah, so I was salaried. I'm working about like 45 hours a week plus commuting like 30 to 40 minutes each way. And they didn't put me on hourly. They just dropped my salary by that percentage of time, down to 75%, basically of a salary. And then when I came in, we were supposed to have regular checkups, you know, how's the part-time going.
[00:06:41] And when I came in for my second, part-time check-in, I said yeah, this isn't working. I'm going to have to, I'm gonna have to leave. And my boss actually said to me. Yeah, I knew it was coming. I just needed you to get there. Like I knew you had arrived there on your own time. You know, we all knew it was coming, I've planned for this. And I said I wanted to take the team through year end, which usually runs through the end of February. Cause we have a third party come in and do this big review and So I said, I'm, I'm absolutely willing to do that. I cannot do it at full time. Might even have to do less, hours. And, he said, if you can make it through the end of February, that'd be great. So that's what I did.
[00:07:21] Serena: Cool. Were you like in a corporate position or at a CPA firm? What was your role?
[00:07:28] Jen: I worked for a construction management firm. It's one of the largest here in Cincinnati. We did about a hundred million a year in revenue and I led the corporate team. So I was the senior staff accountant. And then my team was a staff accountant and a corporate accounting assistant. And I reported into the CFO and kind of like a--
[00:07:53] Serena: You were basically a controller.
[00:07:55] Jen: They're replacing me with a controller. Yes.
[00:07:57] Serena: Yes. And they'll pay them as a controller and that's always the unfortunate thing, right. Because they're going to bring in someone that. Comes with the experience and the higher, you know, and that's just kind of how the job market is anyway. So it's like if I were in corporate right now, like I would probably be hopping jobs to, to be able to get the pay bump that you really deserve. And I had to do that through my whole career anyways. Like it's just the reality of how things work. If you want to exponentially increase your income, you typically have to jump jobs and take a higher position, you know?
[00:08:36] So now that you're on the other side of that, as you were ramping up your business, can you tell us like where you were at as you were part-time how many clients you had and, and all that kind of.
[00:08:51] Jen: Yeah. So I would say going into September around when I started the course I had, let me think about this one. I had three monthly clients, including my forever non-paying sister, just like, Hey,
[00:09:08] Serena: We all have one of those like charity clients.
[00:09:12] Jen: And then So three monthly and then four quarterly, the four quarterly fall, they fall under two people, two people that they're very entrepreneurial, so they have a lot of businesses.
[00:09:24] So that's where I was and in September. And then I think I closed out the year with like 10 or 11 and now I am at 14.
[00:09:37] Serena: Okay. Wow. And are you supporting those 14 clients all on your own and is there a mixture of quarterly and monthly clients? What does that look like?
[00:09:48] Jen: Yeah, so I, eh, I think it was in like beginning of December, middle of December.
[00:09:53] I hired a bookkeeper to help. She's 10 99 and she does. About 15 to 20 hours a month. And she does more of the like transaction coding, reconciliations running the initial draft of the reports. We have just now kind of gotten her at them because things were growing and we're putting processes in place. And she helped with a lot of that in the beginning too, like setting up like auto workflows and Asana templates and all of those things, she helped with a lot of that. So we're finally to the point where we have all those things in place, and now we're getting into the actual rhythm of like, what is the bookkeeping looking like every month?
[00:10:33] And I think we'll probably ramp up her hours a little bit as we bring on more clients this year. I think my goal for the year is about 22. Hopefully I'm bringing on no more than two a month because that's like the most comfortable to kind of give them the onboarding experience that they need.
[00:10:59] Serena: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. If especially if you're the only person really dedicated to the onboarding process it can be a lot to just like coordinate everything. It's not necessarily a lot of work to onboard people, but it's like just the coordination of figuring out what is left, what do I still need from them? And it's like, Different for every client. Yeah, that's a smart move to pace that. Awesome. So your goal is 22. You're at 14 now. That's amazing. I'm so impressed. And how does it feel like now that you are literally your own boss now and you get to just like go wherever you want and do whatever you want. How does all of that feel?
[00:11:43] Jen: This is a really good time to be asking me this because the last week was literally my first week as my own boss, only in that also having another boss. And it was pretty great. I went to. One of the big things that my husband and I talked about with making this change was we didn't want to sacrifice our lifestyle, but we were willing to, we kind of approach this as like a holistic. Okay. So we'll have more time or I will have more time to help us lead a healthier life style where I have more time to cook and more time to clean and be outside. And we can spend our weekends together as a family versus spending the weekends cleaning and doing laundry and doing all of those like tasks for our house.
[00:12:22] And so. I started last week, my first week as my own boss, by going to a farm like 15 minutes from here to get some local meat came home and I meal prepped for like three hours last Monday. And, I started exercising again last week I did spinning on the wheel rider bikes. Yes.
[00:12:44] Serena: I love that.
[00:12:46] Jen: I know. It's great. I'm going again on Tuesday and I'm going with a friend, which is awesome. Another business owner who has an online business. So we're doing that together. I'm taking my son to swim lessons every week and it's just. I used to always live with like, the sense that if I was doing something for me personally, or for a family personally, like I always felt like I shouldn't be doing that because I have this other responsibility. And like, if I'm doing something for myself, then I'm ignoring my, you know, outlook or my teams or not checking the business bank account or. The little green thing isn't on my teams and people are going to wonder where I'm at. And so we're just not having that--
[00:13:29] Serena: Were you're working virtually through the end.
[00:13:32] Jen: I was Monday, Wednesday, Friday, half days at home and then Tuesday, Thursday, full days in the office. So it's really nice to have Tuesday, Thursday back.
[00:13:40] Serena: Yeah. How much does it feel like you are, like you have so much space? Like, does it feel like you have lots and lots of time or are you, is it easy for you to fill like that time with all the things that you wish that you could have been doing before?
[00:13:57] Jen: This past week it was easy to fill the time. We are home renovation addicts a little bit. So I was working on one of our projects that we've been working on for many, many months. And so kind of doing that a little bit in the background and I just decided to start making my own sourdough. Some are working on that. So it just filled up with all of these things that we've been talking about for many months and never had the time to do you know, like cleaning the carpets.
[00:14:27] But like actual work for numbers by Jen was probably probably 25 hours this past week. And I think that that will slow down as I just get more into a groove of, you know, what does my day look like? And my long-term goal is. I have, like, I had my scheduler set right now for, I think like nine to two, Monday through Thursday for meetings. And then hopefully Fridays off to do stuff around the house or with friends.
[00:14:58] Serena: Yeah. I would say like, if your ultimate goal is to only do a four day work week, like just do that now and build your business around that schedule. Just draw the line right now because it's easy to get like sucked in to. Always having, like, I don't work Fridays on my business or in my business. The only thing that I do like business wise on Fridays is sometimes I engage on social media, the fun stuff that I want to do, and don't feel any pressure for like the journaling ideas and things like that. But I like, my Fridays are pretty sacred because my kids have a half day at school and it just really doesn't leave that much time. And we live like 30 minutes from town. So the drive in and the drive back is an hour out of my time. So like, I don't have time to come back home. My preschooler doesn't even have school on Friday, so it's like our day together.
[00:15:50] So it's like, I try to just not really work at all Fridays. That's your plan? I would say, like, start that now, build your schedule around that. And then you never have to. Reel it back in, if that makes sense. And you've already built your business on part-time hours.
[00:16:09] So you know that you can actually run it on part-time hours. And that's really the beauty and you'll feel like now you're doing it with way less stress because you don't have this other focus pulling from pulling your attention. This is awesome. It's divine timing of you. Like you literally like finished that job a week ago and I'm so excited to see. Like, I love watching on Instagram. Your feed is beautiful. Is your sister doing it for you? Does she just kind of consult you?
[00:16:39] Jen: No. So I actually partnered with a social media team because it was just of all the things in the business. It was the most stressful to me and it wasn't, you know, I left corporate to be less stressed and that I could just feel the stress from that part. So I hired some help with that area and that has been totally worth it for, for me.
[00:17:02] Serena: Are you getting clients from your social media content? Can you tie it straight back to that do you think?
[00:17:08] Jen: Uh, no, not yet.
[00:17:10] Serena: Not yet. It's a long game. It really is. And I do still think it's important to have a presence. Like how much time you dedicate toward it. It really is up to you. But yeah, you do have to give it some time.
[00:17:23] Jen: I think I'm trying to, so my sister, my sister did redo my website. She redid my logo and all of that. Also in early January and I did a professional photo shoot. So I think I'm trying to like find my footing after that. Like I sh like, everything kind of was refreshed. It's like, I shook it all up and now I just have to kind of like, let it, let it be. And the long game, like you said.
[00:17:50] Serena: So then where have most of your clients come from?
[00:17:54] Jen: Referrals. So I snagged some and beginning there. One of them was a friend of mine. It was just kind of like divine timing and she's just really community focused. She's always posting about me. She's she's awesome. So I've gotten a few from her and then they've pretty much. All been referrals, I guess since the beginning, like first handful, which is interesting. It's taking me in a lot of interesting directions and it's made me really hesitant to pick a niche or niche or however we say it because like I got one salon owner and then she referred me to more salon owners. And so now I have five of those and then I have real estate referrals. And then, yeah, it's just been really interesting.
[00:18:38] Serena: Yeah. Hey, you don't have to, like, I didn't have a niche niche for like three or four years, pretty much. And even when you do pick one, you'll still get referrals in that are outside of that specific industry. And you still get to decide if you want to take them or not. It's just having a niche, I think the biggest benefit of it is that you can really target your marketing, like your messaging. You can target where you're hanging out to be the go-to expert in that industry. But you're still going to get people from other industries coming to you because they saw that content or they were referred to you. So that's my take on it. Anyways. We have some random industries too.
[00:19:24] Jen: And I kind of, I think I selfishly like the, the diversity of like, I think it's fun to kind of like research in and work in different industries. What's attractive to me about picking one is the efficiency of it. And only kind of having to learn the specific rules for that industry. And then also being able to provide clients with like industry data and just better information. So. I dunno, maybe something.
[00:19:55] Serena: Yeah. And maybe you'll do like one or two that are kind of similar to like professional services is very broad, but it still keeps your processes simple, you know? So, Thank you so much, Jen, for sharing your story. I think hearing the transition out of corporate is really helpful for people to see like, okay, this is possible. This is the type of conversation I could have with my boss. There's lots of ways to do it. There's no right or wrong way. Really? It's just like figuring out what works for you.
[00:20:27] Yeah, If you have any more questions for Jen definitely connect with her on Instagram. Is that where you're most active?
[00:20:34] Jen: Yeah.
[00:20:35] Serena: Yeah, me too. Awesome. Yeah. Thanks for making it seem okay to hire someone for social media you should ask for help. You could even probably trade and I'm like, I'm not huge, huge on trades. Now inside of my business, like now I just prefer to do the monetary exchange, but at the beginning of my business, I traded for my website.
[00:20:56] I traded for some other things that. It really does help get your name out there. Then those people are going to refer you. And especially if it's your niche, like do a trade with someone and then they will be the person that refers you all the time, too. Highly recommend that, especially if funds are tight at the beginning. Trades are great.
[00:21:16] So thank you again so much. Jen I appreciate you so much and you guys will see Jen in the community if or when you join BBA and yeah. .
[00:21:27] Jen: Thank you, BBA, I feel like it changed everything so grateful to have found you. As soon as I stumbled upon the information for it and then started watching your. Videos and your posts and everything has like, yep. She's my people. This is it. That's the one.
[00:21:46] Serena: And then I posted that I do spin class and you're like, all right, I'm just giving I wasn't doing it back then. I don't think, or maybe I had started it and I took a break over the holidays cause I got sick and all that kind of stuff. But I go, I try to go three times a week. Cause our Y YMCA has, um, classes almost every day for spin. But the days. The class time that works for me is Monday, Wednesday, Friday mornings. And they also have free childcare on those mornings. And those are the mornings that my preschooler does not have preschool, so it works out great.
[00:22:19] Jen: Yeah. That's perfect.
[00:22:21] Serena: Yeah. Alrighty. Well, thank you so much. We will catch you all later. And we'll talk to you soon. Bye.